View Full Version : Latvia

08-20-02, 05:05 PM
Avatar, I was bored at work and started to wander what Latvia was like, care to share some details about your country?

08-20-02, 05:46 PM
ex-warsaw pact eastern bloc satelitte state of the Soviet Union. Now democratic capitalist government. Its in asia...somewhere.
(i was bored too, so i thought i would invade this private thread for you two.:D) sorry. :(

08-20-02, 05:47 PM
Its not in Asia. Its in Eastern Europe

08-20-02, 05:51 PM
stuff that we cant get on national geographic or the newspapers tho

so ......fads ,trends, top ten, hot actresses/singers/models, deviant latvian sexual practices, scandals,drugs etc
also a link to a popular online latvian paper) english of course

thank you

08-20-02, 05:52 PM
sorry, my mistake. Whatever was i thinking? i'm too tired, my brain is'nt functioning properly, i even said: eastern-bloc. sorry. :bugeye: :D

08-20-02, 05:54 PM
Well, Avatar will make everything clear

08-20-02, 05:58 PM
choose your option


choose your pick
I will list sub categories then or tell about whole

ex-warsaw pact eastern bloc satelitte state of the Soviet Union. Now democratic capitalist government.
we also were a free democratic republic from 1918-1945 when russians took over

08-20-02, 06:01 PM
cmon a dark secret please

08-20-02, 06:02 PM
cool, tell me more. :) you've got me interested now, i like learning about other countries.

08-20-02, 06:04 PM
I know it's not on the list, but how about revealing some Country Secrets? :D

08-20-02, 06:35 PM
In ancient times , most latvians lived in seperate houses/farms with their family members slaves (slaves always were war prissoners, never latvians). Everyone lived far from each other and there was no feudal system.
There were war lords who lived in their castles , but they also lived with their relatives and their warriors. There were no strangers hanging around. The servants and maids were a part of community , even slaves. At that time in Latvia there was more human rights than anywhere in Europe. If anybody required a protection , then he could build his house by the warrlords castle and pay a tax for protextion. (in natural resources mostly). There was no system of taking peaceful folk under their control, because as I noted warlords were like heads of their community and everyone had their duty. Warriors/men who lived with the warlord did all the agricultural works, their wives did the sewing etc- [in european feudal system, soldiers thought that it is under their honour to dig ground so they needed ppl to do their work for them- feed them]- so in Latvia (also Lithuania) warlords and soldiers didn't opress peaceful folk, because it wasn't needed, because they did all the work for themselves. Thus no governmental system formed. There were only "Krivi" - wise old men, who did the rare rituals needed to do before major battles [ the most well known is the horse of faith- they took a white horse and led it over a wooden branch. If the horse stepped over the branch with it's right leg, then the warlord will have success in his planned battle or any other strategy, major plans, if it stepped over the branch with it's left leg- then the warrlord should better stay home -I'm not sure about the legs/left.right/, I will verify that-] but " krivi "well mostly like advisors and lived in sacred forests (in sacred forests you couldn't chop wood, or hunt , or battle--- even until nowadays latvians have a very - duno how to say- sacred feelings about forests and most feel them like sanctuary........since russians came our culture has suffered much, but there are many who still honour the old traditions, values and give them to children- - I'll write a post about Ligo- our midsummers fest , that is being held to this day and is a national holiday and I can proudly tell that no less than 80% of latvians still fest them as it was in ancient times.) and didn't do almost any politics .
Everyone lived for themselves - if intruders came, then warlords usually battled each for their own.
Due to this our people have suffered a lot, because it was almost impossible to unite all warlords for one major strike- it made us more vunlnurable and unfortunately later led to our enslavement by Germans. It took them almost 200 years though from 1201.
(but when we did unite- there was the great battle of Saule, where we destroyed all German crusaders that were in our country, but I'll return to it more deeply in another post if anybody wants)
Even nowadays latvians like to be alone (a very specific and well seen charecteristic). We hardly make new friends, but when we do, then they're blood friends to life and death and we get terribly upset and angry if they turn against us.
We also don't like our far relatives (thus is our nature), because we don't trust them and don't like other people company.

08-20-02, 06:46 PM
more about politics, more about politics! :)
i'm off to bed now, tis very late and i'm tired. thank you avatar for enlightening us of your country. although i'm sure there is much more you can tell. :D

08-20-02, 06:49 PM
I can tell about politics- yes
I know a lot about our politics from inside, beause of my father- but I never liked them- mostly boring as all politics in all countries - IMHO
but it's 2:49AM here, so more probable I will write about politics in the morning

anyone else would like to know smthing specific?

08-20-02, 06:53 PM
Originally posted by Captain_Crunch
Its in asia...somewhere.

some people think only Americans have monopoly in stupidity.....

08-20-02, 08:08 PM
(but when we did unite- there was the great battle of Saule, where we destroyed all German crusaders that were in our country, but I'll return to it more deeply in another post if anybody wants)

Sounds interesting Avatar!

08-20-02, 08:13 PM
krivi - sounds druidic

are you guys celtic?

what about tartan and bagpipes? whats the connection?

do you have any historical accounts or myths of migrations to the british isles?

latvian names in tobago!:D

any oldtimers there still refer to latvia as livonia or is that considered heresy? ;)

what about tribes? are there distinctions b/w peoples?

your peoples achievements in the face of incredible adversity is amazing!

thank you in advance!


08-20-02, 08:37 PM
I'll reply to spookz now , because Odins question takes more time (in the morning Odin 4:15AM now)

krivi - sounds druidic

maybe- I don't know

are you guys celtic?
no - we're Balts- baltic

what about tartan and bagpipes? whats the connection?
not sure about that. Our bagpies differ from the Scotish ones. thei're smaller, made from skin and you can play it a lot longer than Scotish ones, because it doesn't take much air. Bagpies or duudas in latvian have been used around here as long as we have been here. a very ancient instrument. Maybe the Scots took it from us when they marched forward South.

do you have any historical accounts or myths of migrations to the british isles
no- no Balts are ever recorded to migrate to the British isles

latvian names in tobago!
didn't understand the question.
it's an ancient colony of the Kurzemes princedom.
established by Duke Jekabs in 18th century

any oldtimers there still refer to latvia as livonia? (or is that a different place)
quite funny - yes.
there is african-latvian community there:D
latvian quire lol
some latvians also live there
Tobago sells cheap land for latvians who would like to settle there also. some have used the offer.
what about tribes? are there distinctions b/w peoples?
physical- no
cultural- slightly

there are traits of character still visable today.
basically in latvia there are 3 "tribes" of Balts and one
Finno-Ugric tribe. We don't live in tribes, but that what is visible till today (personal charectreistics, some rituals, different words)
3 Baltic "tribes" in Latvia are Latgali, Zemgali, Kurshi/Liivi.
the Finno-Ugric is Liibieshi [Livians in english](small ammount of people, have lived here since the ice age, when Balts came from (supposedly) Balkans to this area)

in ancient times the Balt tribes which inhabited the territory of the present day Latvia were Selonians, Semgallians, Couronians, Latgallians.

good night...

08-20-02, 08:55 PM
English people are Anglo Saxon,I think they came from the German tribes!

This is very interesting Avatar

08-20-02, 09:09 PM
Hey Avatar and all interesteds,
Latvia, i have questions about too! Its not often one gets first-hand information about obscure (no offense intended) countries like Latvia. For better or for worse, most people in the world know, or have some idea, about life in the USA (or Britain, France, any other highly urbanized place), but unless you take an interest in other countries, hardly anybody here knows about other places in the world.

So, down to my questions. What do young Latvian-folk do for fun in your country? Skate, bike, smoke pot, climb mountains, play video games, what?

Is there alot of crime where you live, and in Latvia in general?

How does your school system work, how long do you have to go for?

Whats the food like? I mean, whats a typical meal consist of, really?

Hey thanks for the awesome info so far..Latvia sounds pretty damn cool. :cool:

08-21-02, 05:51 AM
i just thought i would tell you all that i have now ignored Joeman as he makes these forums an unpleasant place with his constant attacking of me. To argue with him would just be lowering myself to his level but i'm better than that. :rolleyes:
Avatar - i'm eagerly waiting a responce :D :)
i have an easy question for many hours is Latvia behind/infront of GMT because i cant find the time zone it is in?. :confused:

08-21-02, 07:15 AM
Where is it?! :confused:

What are the roots of the language?

08-21-02, 09:33 AM
Originally posted by Captain_Crunch
i just thought i would tell you all that i have now ignored Joeman as he makes these forums an unpleasant place with his constant attacking of me.

I wasn't attacking you. You are way too sensitive. I just used you as an example to counter the stereotype against Americans.

If people here don't say Americans are stupid and ignorant, I wouldn't have mentioned it.

Also I didn't make this place unpleasant. I only make you unpleasant and couple others.

08-21-02, 09:38 AM
What do young Latvian-folk do for fun in your country?
same as everywhere I think. we don't live in caves lol
mostly hip-hop, skate boarding, partyes, drag racing, also computer games
also we have a big drinking problem over here.
and it's even worse with the girls:(
Is there alot of crime where you live, and in Latvia in general?
as in every country. nothing extreme... a lot of cases when overdozed narcomans attack though

How does your school system work, how long do you have to go for?
you can go to kindergarten if you wnat. school starts in 6 or 7 years (you can choose)
I was the smartass and chose 7 hehehe
you learn up to form 9 and then you have to do a state exam. Later you advance to forms 10-12.. After that you can go to university .... or army.
Whats the food like? I mean, whats a typical meal consist of, really?
my sister lives in UK and she says that she can cry, when thinks of our food that isn't available there. Also my friend from Italy said , he likes our kitchen more than his.
the key secret is 110% natural. Many don't use presrvatives and chemicals, because they have no money for them. Also here people don't buy fishstiks, McDonald is also quite unpopular.
People less and less buy coke. We have our own national drink "kvass". It's a lot like soft drinks only with more natural ingredients.
So yeah- our food is quite good. Many people from other countries really like it.
typical meal- hmmmm- we don't have usually first course, second and so on.
usual dinner- rissoles with boiled patatoes, cucmber or tomatoe salad with sour creem or
sour preserved cucumbers (they are put in jars with viniegar, parsleys and whole buch of other greens and held for some months or so.

timezone- GMT + 2.00

08-21-02, 09:53 AM
Why don't you have a decent football team?? :p

08-21-02, 09:57 AM
I find this all very interesting, please keep it up.

08-21-02, 09:58 AM
Originally posted by Deepuz
Why don't you have a decent football team?? :p

They have superstar Marian Pahars in Southhampton. I probably know more about Latvian football than he does.

08-21-02, 10:05 AM
Originally posted by Firefly
Where is it?! :confused:

What are the roots of the language?

Our language has dirrect roots in sanskrit and ours and Lithuanian languages are the most ancient from all indoeuropean languages that have survived to this day

08-21-02, 10:05 AM
after the fall of USSR nationalistic partyes took over. then formed the liberal partyes .
From 1991 we have had Mostly right wing partyes or partyes who weren't/aren't left in power.
The lef wing partyes are all communists who left over after the fall of ussr and lead anti-national/latvia possition. They want us back under thee full infuence of Russia and of course the return of old times. Three biggest partyes are funded by Russian communists (not openly of course).
Then there are two rich dudes- one controls the oild transport through our country, the other controls the food production. They both are big gamers in politics and fund the partyes [the food one Andris Skele even has his own party) which are at power. That oil dude Lembergs also funds one left party.
The left wingers use our overstructuring period which is hard and not all is sored out yet, against the power partyes. They won in the previous self government elections of our capital. They have a mayor now. I'm happy that they have screwed up so many things, that nobody hopefully will want to vote for them in main elections held this year (October). They are a good opposition party, but they suck when they have power. It was even said by one of their founders in 1920s.
So mostly we have here battles between left and right wingers. Left wingers i.e. communists have large support because of the big russian community here - about 38% :(. That's the result ov russian emigrant policies- they sent to the far north or killed about million latvians (then it was 1/3 of our population) and sent in a lot of russians. Now our population is 2.3 million and ~38% are russians :mad:

point out smthing specific you want to hear more about

08-21-02, 10:10 AM
Football is not so popular in our country HOCKEY is.
even if our hockey team loses and screws everything up- people and I cheer about them.

when our team won Russia with all their NHL stars - that kind of party wasn't ever before in Latvia. Everybody was going by strrets and singing our national anthem, also our hockey song lol
olee olee olee olee olee olee Latvia , it's our second anthem. Then we formed a large procession and put flowers by the russian embassy:D
that was a great day

08-21-02, 10:13 AM
Now post some pictures of cute Latvian actresses or supermodels. LOL. :D

08-21-02, 10:25 AM
I don't watch tv, therefore I don't know the names of such.

08-21-02, 10:33 AM

Population 1,394,000 in Latvia including over 500,000 Latgalians.

Population total all countries 1,500,000 (1995 V. Zeps).

Region Also spoken in Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, New Zealand, Russia (Europe), Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA, Venezuela.



Classification Indo-European, Baltic, Eastern.

Comments Tamian is a subdialect of Central Latvian. Latvians do not like the term 'Lettish.' National language. Grammar. Roman script. Christian. Bible 1689-1995.

More info. (
And yet mroe info. (

08-21-02, 11:16 AM
i hadnt really heard of Latvia before this thread apart when avatar was telling where he was from but it sounds an interesting place, i want to visit it one day.

08-21-02, 01:12 PM
Same here actually. Although i do plan on seeing just about every country that doesnt have any political strife or other military action going on at the time..

08-21-02, 01:49 PM
"Interactions with Lithuanians on an official level can be somewhat of a harrowing experience. They are often rude, curt and generally unfriendly. Expect a similar reaction if you are identified as a stranger‚ a foreigner. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are considered a friend, relative or someone who deserves help or attention, the experience can be amazingly and sometimes almost overwhelmingly hospitable. Lithuanians will open up their homes and hearts. Its a difficult dichotomy to accept, especially since the difference can be so drastic. I'm convinced foreign "experts", coming to Lithuania, could walk away with a completely different impression of Lithuania, especially if all they see are the public spaces and are limited to formal interactions.

Lithuanians are not public people. After 50 years of oppression, the public sphere has been severely damaged. People stroll cobble-stone streets without daring to make any sign of personal expression. Of course, this affects day to day interactions. Since I am currently residing in a country that considers complaining a national pastime I'll allow myself a gripe or two relating to the dehumanizing way individuals are still allowed to treat one another in a country that is supposedly moving towards a democratic society."

can i replace lithuanians with latvians?

08-21-02, 02:05 PM
Lithuanians are from a different country..

Edit: Disregard the above! A read below :)

Does this mean Americans can be called Canadians, and vice-versa?

08-21-02, 02:33 PM
yes you can , spookz:) :grin:
Although they are a different country our languages are alike , we both are balts and our tribes in ancient times lived together. Like a big family that was torn apart , when Germans and even more when Russians came.

Our character traits and traditions are very alike.
and we are quite friendly towards each other

08-21-02, 03:34 PM
i was a "young latvian" in a previous life!

:D :D

my next project is to connect you guys to the scots (ancient or otherwise)

some latvian dainas (songs)

08-21-02, 03:41 PM
you can't do that!
we are quite different.
bagpies are also different, culture is different.
we have nothing in common

Latvians do not like the term 'Lettish
and you know why?
because it's a dirrect translation from the russian

08-21-02, 04:01 PM
There Bagpipes,from Avatars description sound more like Irish Bagpipes Than Scots ones!

08-21-02, 04:05 PM
whatever- scotish, irish- Balts have never had any business with them.

- I haven't forgotten about the battle of Saule odin. I started it and there's nothing much t tell, just have to find specific translations to english for german knights association:D (no - not templars, although they show up)

Bagpipes (latvian) are made of unadulterated stripped skin (sheep, calf, pig, dog, feline and other), turned out to underside. At the ends of the forelegs, the tube of cart of air and the pipe of melody are placed, at the ends of the backlegs - one or two burdon pipes.
Player keeps a bagpipe in his armpit and sqeazes it. The compressed air leaving oscillates the reed and creates a sound. By pressing of the elbow the player supports in bagpipe even pressure and, by this, even height of the sound.

08-21-02, 04:11 PM
Many of foreign sources put all the fame to the Lithuanians. Somehow Lithuanians and Latvians don't do it because for the following reasons lazy foreign historians failed to notice.
The battle of Saule (a location, also saule is =sun) is a location in the territory of Latvia and it has always been like it . Besides then there weren't nations as now. There were baltic tribes and some of them fought in the battle of Saule- not Lithuanians , not Latvians , but the tribes that lived in that area.
They wiped out all Order of Sword (german knights) with smaller rank warriors (16k in total) except for one knight with his servant (he was killed later).

Ringaud was a great Lithuanian warlord, some call him king.

I wanted to write a longer response, but then remembered this song by SKYFORGER ( :)
(folk metal band)

The Battle Of Saule

Sit down, wayfarer, by the riverside
take a look beyond
see the level field
on the other side of stream

Where a quiet ploughman
slowly tilling his land
in olden times there raged a battle
many thousands meet their death

Over there the power of the order of sword was razed to the ground
Lithuanians side by side with Semigalls a great victory then found

In the battle of Saule
Where Ringaud hailed the victory
at the battlefield of Saule
the bones of Christians are rotting in the ground

Through the dark forests by stealth
has Ringaud rushed with his men
on the way to this bloody feast
has called the Semigalls to join them

Perkon! The almighty forefathers' god
Who crashes the bolts from the sky
by whom the earth and the air is trembling
please, help us to conquer this fighting

Meister Folkvin and the whole Order of Sword for ever fell asleep,
by the Semigalls some coward who tried to escape in Riga was killed

The Battle of Saule, by the river Memele
most splendid of the Ringaud's victories
when passing by this place, wayfarer,

I have all the facts of how they marched, detailed followup and more details, but it's a long and complicated text in Latvian and I'm not sure if it's very interesting to "outsiders" :p . I'm lazy:(:rolleyes:
I'll read it through once more

08-21-02, 04:17 PM
Latvian Plaid from Lejasciems, Latvia
Similar to Scottish & Tocharian Plaids

Did you know that the ancient Latvians, like the Scots, had bagpipes? or that weaving patterns in Scottish tartans have great similarities to ancient Latvian plaids? See the graphic above. The pictured Latvian plaid is nearly identical to an ancient Tocharian plaid - ancient European mummies of which have been found in China. Did these ancient peoples share a common origin? [For the linguistic tartans compare Latvian terpins, dim. for terps meaning "tartan", all probably derived from a term similar to Latvian dariba, darina (drana), darita, daritins meaning "worked (product)"), whence Latvian drebes "cloth" and English drapes. The Scottish kilt compares to Latvian kleita ("dress").]

It is perhaps not without reason that Paul Dunbavin, in his book Picts and Ancient Britons: An Exploration of Pictish Origins, suggests on the basis of still further evidence, "that the Picts were ... immigrants from the Baltic." Looking back even further in time, archaeology and a study of ancient skull types clearly shows similar Mesolithic humans (ca. 8000 BC) among the Magdalenians (the cave painters of Lascaux, France), the ancient people of Normandy, Scandinavia, the middle European lowland and Latvia. See Raisa Denisova, The Most Ancient Population of Latvia and Ilze Loze, Indo- Europeans in the Eastern Baltic in the View of an Archaeologist.

Hence, the culture and traditions of the Baltic peoples take on a greater importance for those who wish to study the origins of the cultures of the British Isles and of Western Civilization.

One of the important remnants of ancient Baltic culture is formed by the DAINAS. The word "DAINAS" in Latvian is pronounced exactly like the English "DYNAS" in DYNASTY. The Dainas are unique ancient Latvian "folksongs in verse form - originally intended to be sung". The Dainas relate epic, mythical, astronomical and cultural information. One such verse or "Daina" generally consists of four lines of unrhymed trochaic text (one long syllable followed by one short syllable, etc.).

The Dainas have been passed down over the millennia by oral tradition and cover all aspects of ancient Baltic life, mythology and astronomy. Dainas are called Dainos in Lithuania - where they are far less frequent. In Latvia, the Dainas are most frequent in the highlands. Comparables to the Dainas outside the Baltic are perhaps only found in ancient Mesopotamia in the most ancient Sumerian and Akkadian pantheon. An example is the Agushaya Hymn (Agushaya possibly = Latvian Augšaja "(on) the highest"), an ancient song text which was the dissertation subject of Orientalist Wolfram von Soden, who at that time could not have been aware of any possible Baltic connection. A number of lines in the Sumerian-Akkadian Agushaya Hymn bear strong similarity to texts STILL found nearly unaltered in the Latvian Dainas.

As noted by Hans Rychener, in his book "...und Estland, Lettland, Litauen?", Herbert Lang, Berlin, 1975, p. 24: "The myths of the Lithuanians and Latvians...remind one of the belief systems of the ancient Hindus and Greeks."

Robert Payne, in "The Green Linden, Selected Lithuanian Folk-songs", Voyages Press, N.Y., 1964, writes: "The dainos...represent a form of poetry as ancient as anything on this earth.... They have a beauty and pure primitive splendor above anything I know in Western literature, except the early songs of the Greek Islanders. They seem to have been written at the morning of the world, and the dew is still on them."

Hermanis Rathfelders, in his many writings in Acta Baltica, wrote that the Latvian Dainas were extremely ancient, preceding the milling of grain, so that the mythological and astronomical Dainas may reach back many thousands of years in time.

Oral Tradition and the Dainas

The Dainas as ancient verses were handed down through oral tradition from generation to generation in Latvia, often at great cost.

During one stage of German occupation of Latvia in the 16th century, women caught reciting the Dainas were burned at the stake as witches, which only solidified the cultural resistance more than ever.

In the 18th century the famous German writers Johann Gottfried von Herder and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe devoted serious attention to the Latvian Dainas, which surely helped to generate Herder's interest in his later "Essay on the Origin of Language", as well as "Oldest Records of the Human Race" and his collection of Folk Songs ("Volkslieder").

Through his contact with the Latvian Dainas, Herder may also have developed his theory that the poetry of legend was the "soul of history" - or, as written in the Encyclopaedia Britannica "[Herder] considered poetry to spring from the natural and historical environment" of man. At the end of his life, Herder was thus a great opponent of the modern developing "classical movement" in German literature, which estranged poetry from its place as a historical record, leading to a modern misinterpretation of antique sources which has persisted down to the present day, not just in Mesopotamia, but also in the misinterpretation of the Dainas.

Krišjanis Barons and the Dainas

In 1878 a group of Latvian intellectuals in Moscow decided to collect and publish the "best" of the Latvian Dainas, not fully realizing the immensity of the task before them. They had no idea that so many Dainas existed. The last volume of their collection, Latvju Dainas, was thus in fact published in St. Petersburg only 40 years later. [See Archives of Latvian Folklore]

The best known of the three initial "collectors" of Dainas is Krišjanis Barons, who was the main coordinator of the project to collect, classify and publish the Dainas. Barons was born on October 31, 1835 in Latvia. He attended schools in Dundaga (German Dondangen), Kurzeme (German Kurland viz. Courland), Ventspils (German Windau) and Jelgava (German Mitau). From 1856 to 1860 he studied mathematics and astronomy in Tartu (German Dorpat), Estonia (German Estland). When Barons passed away on March 8, 1923, he was celebrated by thousands as a national hero, for having collected 35,800 Dainas, including 182,000 variants, for a total of 217,800 verses.

But this was not the end of the matter. Collection of Dainas continued through the 20th century, and there are now a total of ca. 2,000,000 (two million) collected verses, counting variants. As written by Vilmos Voigt, it is the greatest such collection of ancient folksongs in the world - and yet the population of Latvians in Latvia has never exceeded 2,000,000 people, so this must be a very old tradition.

Barons dealt with the Dainas over decades and thus began to understand their essence. He wisely organized the Dainas according to the events of the mythical, astronomical and agricultural year - to which their content is in fact well suited and from which they surely originated. One of the Dainas even speaks of "ice hills" - perhaps glaciers of the most recent glacial period - so that the Dainas may be among the oldest human records.

The DAINAS presented here are selected from and adapted from the 12-volume Latviešu Tautas Dziesmas (Chansons Populaires Lettonnes), Imanta Publishers, Copenhagen, 1952-1956, ed. A. Švabe, K. Straubergs and E. Hauzenberga-Šturma. These volumes followed the Barons system of classification for the Dainas. Dainas were grouped by assigned subject matter and each "basic unique" Daina was assigned a number starting with 1 and today reaching about 60,000, not counting the variants, which bring the total to well over 2,000,000. This classification system is retained on this web site.

A new edition of the Dainas is being prepared by linguists in Latvia according to a new system of classification [See LTK, "Das bäuerliche Jahr im Volkslied", Deutsche Tagespost, No. 85, p. 10, July 16, 1985]. If the new system departs from the ancient scheme of calendric feasts and astronomical events in favor of "modern" views of poetry (such as Herder correctly opposed) - the new compilation may well be less "authentic" than the older versions, and thus less useful for historical study. But we shall see.

All English translations and interpretations of the Dainas on this site, unless otherwise noted, are by Andis Kaulins, J.D. Stanford University; FFA Lecturer emeritus, University of Trier, Germany; Author, Langenscheidt Fachverlag. I find it interesting that ALL the kings of England up to the present generation can be traced back by royal blood to CEAWLIN, who was not only King of the West Saxons (Wessex) 560-592 AD but - according to the historian Bede - was also bretwalda of England south of the Humber (Kingston upon Hull). Bretwalda meant "Brit-ruler, overlord" and Baltic valda means "rules, governs". Do the similar names CEAWLIN and KAULINs also show an ancient historical connection between the Balts and the British Isles?

Most of these translations and interpretations are new and suggest a more modern understanding of the ancient mythology, astronomy and culture of the Baltic peoples, who, according to the recently published History of the Baltic Countries (a book subsidized by the European Union) trace their origins back to the Magdalenians, the cave painters of Lascaux... which is e.g. surely why French tu es is the same as Latvian tu esi or French a'dieu may find itself in ar dievu in Latvian. Accordingly, the most ancient Dainas may trace clear back to the earliest origins of modern human civilization.

btw- picts in latvian pronaunces like pikti and that means- the pettish ones lol

08-21-02, 05:09 PM
Scottish culture has been corrupted by English culture. A culture of binge drinking, vandalism etc etc. But that is the modern culture of Scotland. There are similarities between latvian dress and Scottish dress (traditional) but that is all i can see.

08-21-02, 05:18 PM

it's only a coincidance

Latvians are really quite different from Scots

08-21-02, 05:24 PM
you know what really gets me though? when people say Scotland is part of England, its like saying Latvia is part of Russia (which i've heard many times) Scotland is an independant state, although its only a satelite state of England and is entirely dependant on England for financial purposes. Given the oportunity Scotland could sustain itself, but not until its given the chance. Scots are very proud of their country (i'm not)- i'm talking in general hear- and are proud of the traditional culture (probally like Latvians.

08-21-02, 05:31 PM
yes . strange- I've never thought of Scottish people as English.
must be due to the respect of freedom

probally like Latvians

08-21-02, 05:42 PM
Well we are getting very full down here now.
So soon the refugees will have to go up to Scotland,& you will all be Heinz 57 :D the same as we will become:(

Given the oportunity Scotland could sustain itself
Wish you would hurry up as we are geting broke :D

08-21-02, 06:13 PM
Heinz 57

So soon the refugees will have to go up to Scotland
England has already been sending them up here. :mad:

Wish you would hurry up as we are geting broke
I wish the government would realise that independance is the key to national prosperity. The only parties that would press for independance is SNP (Scottish National Party) and the SSP (Scottish Socialist Party) :( unfortunatly, the so-called Labour party are quite happy in sponging off of England for a while longer. Sooner we become independant the better and sooner we can abolish the Union Jack (i hate that flag, the most pointless flag there is.)
there is only a 'Great Britain' due to the monarchy, which i am against also. ;)
edit- to get smaller pic of union jack and the most up-dated version.

08-21-02, 06:44 PM
Latvia abunds in small rivers. They were good for building mills in the past, then - small power stations. How this dead tree came to be in the middle of one - who can tell now... (Pale)
Salaca is one the most significant rivers here. It is a small one even compared to the big rivers of Latvia, still. And this is the only kind of cliffs we have here - sandstone.
Pines are among the most significant trees - both because they are the ones you will definitely notice and that you might earn the most on them. Hopefully these will never be cut down for the sake of timber. This is the national park of Mazsalaca.
Werewolves are known in all European cultures. A legend has it that passing through these pine roots for three times a person canbe turned into a werewolf. Well, of course not in bright daylight.
Imagine - it's full moon. You throw off your clothes and reciting a secret spell pass three times under the tree. Where would you run first, wolfie?
This is not the Baltic Sea. It's a lake. Another legend has it that there is a sunken castle in it. People who once lived there had some secret knowledge. Therefore to bring it back up you need to use your wits. And you have to be remarkably good at solving difficult problems. Yet no-one has succeeded... (Burtnieku ezers)

08-21-02, 06:45 PM
Died of sorrow... How many nations in how many legends have told a similar story? One such maiden is said to pass these gates when it's full moon. (Burtnieki)
That's the way of the nature: somebody eats somebody else. But humans are gready, they won't let their chicken be eaten by some falcon or crow. And thus a killed predator must serve as a warning to the others. (A farm in Kirbizi)
The last offerings ot some deities were left in these caves as late as 1830's (if you don't caunt me in:p). The peasants carved their property signs in the walls of the cave. The barons just signed. Fortunately they remembered to add also some dates. So we can maintain that these caves were known already in 1642 (see the numbers on the cave wall!). (River Svetupe - 'The Holy River' - near Kuikule)
This is what it looks like inside. The caves are tens of metres long. Still it's not pleasant to enter as they become narrower and narower and you catch yourself at being afraid to get stuck in some turning. Maybe it's just the darkness and people's fear of it.
Also this is Latvia. The good days are gone for rather many farms, mills, other buildings. Only the old landlords keep returning to the remains of what was once their beloved and fostered land. Well, there's not much ghosts can do... (Pale)

The general truth in all the legends - no-one expects some extraordinary things to happen by day. Is it really the time of the dark forces to come out or it's just our fantasy running wild, when our senses are tired and blocked by the darkness. We consider darkness itself some evil. Is it? Just think of the owls - they live by night. And are regarded as symbols of wisdom by the ancient people. What role here is played by the darkness?

some more

08-21-02, 06:47 PM
57 Verities in one make!Work it out. :D
England has already been sending them up here.
You are part of the EU as we are so you should get your fair share
The only parties that would press for independance is SNP (Scottish National Party) and the SSP (Scottish Socialist Party)
Whish I could vote for them.:rolleyes: Scotland costs us so much money its beyond belief.
We could get out of debut to the USA.

08-21-02, 06:49 PM
Why don't you start a Scotland thread:D
Adam started one for Australia:):cool:

08-21-02, 06:53 PM
Nice pics!

08-21-02, 06:54 PM
o.k, but noone will take any interest and scotland aint as interesting as Latvia. Also, the pictures dont load Avatar. :(

08-21-02, 06:59 PM
Why don't you start a Scotland thread
Yes sorry about that Avatar.
Its not worth the bother,he lives on a tiny little island & wants to make it into two countries.
If he does I hope they take back all the Scots men from Ireland,then we will have no more bombs!as what the Irish call the English out there are really Scotts!

08-21-02, 07:05 PM
the pics don't load for me also:(
must be a bandwight restriction:mad:
I'll put them on another server

edit- I hope the new provider doesn't notice huge bandwight overloads lol
I hope they work now:)

08-22-02, 05:43 AM
Cool photographs Avatar, i like the one of the caves, looks interesting.

08-22-02, 09:33 AM
Avatar, first off, Thank You for replying. It has been very interesting so far. I have learn't alot from you. All I knew about Latvia before this is where it was and that it used to be part of the Soviet Union. Oh, and they beat Russias ass in hockey. GO LATVIA.

08-22-02, 11:42 AM

Riga is very quickly earning the reputation of the city with the most boisterous night life in the Baltics. However, just like in most large cities, it is best to stick to the centre if you`re on foot, but keep your windows closed and eyes pealed if you are driving. While the crime rate here is nothing exceptional, we must caution you not to tempt fate.
Awesome new clubs continue to baffle us with their grandeur, the late scene is practically bubbling over with tempting discos, casinos and cabaret bars. Your head might feel (and in the less fortunate cases look) slightly akin to a discarded cymbal of an over-zealous drummer by the end of an eventful jaunt, but it`s well worth the experience! Here`s where we try to jato boost your nocturnal adventure and hurl you in the right direction!

Nightlife / Adult entertainment

[I live next door to it, but never been there actually lol,
not my style]

This dark, yet cosy club is just the right size and has absolutely nothing to do with the noisy game machines you will encounter on the ground floor. It`s hard to give Bingo a "name" - this is neither a strip-club, nor a disco, a restaurant or a cabaret, but a fine mixture of their best qualities. The cleverly balanced programme allows guests to dance to late 80s and 90s hits and new Russian pop and occasionally take "time-outs" to watch brief, but electrifying performances by sensual exotic dancers.
Main location:

48/50 Brivibas iela (D-6),
tel. 728 05 27,
21.00 - 05.00.

Black Cat
The Black Cat offers topless shows, live music, a restaurant, disco- music and a bar.

Main location:

2 Terbatas iela (D-6)
(in Vernisaza complex),
21.00 - 06.00.
Casino open 14.00 - 06.00.

Jockey Club
Every night this grand club hosts some of the hottest super-shows in town with girls stunning enough to blow your socks right off! An absolutely voluptuous experience! Comfortable restaurant and a stylish bar are at your disposal, if you are still up to it.

Main location:

49 Elizabetes iela (D-6),
tel. 722 88 44,
20.00 - 06.00.

Klubs 3
The enchanting girls will keep you mesmerized all night long with their allure!

Main location:

22/24 Grecinieku iela (J-1/2),
tel. 722 67 50,
20.00 - 05.00.


This night club is a perfect place to watch beautiful girls dance who will dance with you if you wish so. Topless show all night long and if you want more you can even order a private one. Friendly service and attentive manager who will solve all your problems.

Main location:

(in hotel Riga)
22 Aspazijas bulv.,
tel. 721 62 25,
21.00 - 05.00;
admission 5Ls.


Non-stop girls and boys super show coupled with a casino and a bar in Arabian surroundings. Not quite Baghdad but the next best thing, you may need a cool shower afterwards!

Main location:

32 Caka iela (D-7),
(Caka street is the red light street, you have to be careful there)
tel. 728 87 81,
20.00 - 04.00.

Studio 69
Excellent entertainment in this high-ceilinged night club. The club boasts great food and some 24 professional dancers for your pleasure. The scorching topless shows that take place every 20 minutes are likely to keep you sizzling in your seat `till the wee hours!

Main location:

96 Brivibas iela (C-8),
21.00 - 06.00.
Admission 5Ls.

Nightlife / Music clubs

Alcatraz (Pelican Pub)

Who would have thought that one day people would be storming the doors to get in, huh? Just kidding, it`s not that crowdy yet - now is the time to make up your mind whether or not to add this club to your favourite hang-out list, as entrance for the time being is traditionally (like the original!) free of charge. The staff scurries about in prison wardrobe managing to remain cheerful whilst bidding their time. You can`t stay indifferent to the hazy graffiti paintings that adorn the walls of the dance hall, check out the Latvian biker in New York! A separate room for banquets and celebrations is available and a restaurant is also at your service. Live country, blues and rock`n`roll Fri and Sat.

Main location:

88 K. Barona iela (C-8),
tel. 729 49 84,
11.00 - 06.00.

Austrumu Robeza (Eastern Border) (Kabata)

This retro joint possesses an overwhelming personality, provocative or thrilling depends on your views, but one thing`s for sure - it hits you like a sledge! The scantly romantic atmosphere is complemented by the scrutinising stares of Hitler and eons of Russia`s prominent "tyrants", immortalised in polished brass busts supported by velvet cushions and set upon high pedestals around the tenebrous room. On the other hand, museum-going tourists will be delighted to learn that there is an alternative "war museum" to check out - try getting through Kabata`s "Eastern Boarder"! The military camouflage walls and ceiling, the omniscience of brainwashing Socialist slogans and the used MG rounds issued in the garderobe leave their mark on a peaceful mind. WWII documentaries, antique artefacts and a diverse menu make this club an educational, yet fun experience.

Main location:

8 Vagnera iela,
tel. 781 42 02,
08.30 - 24.00.

The Blues club has reopened in another location, find the entrance through cafe Lendora and go to the second floor.

Main location:

59/61 K. Barona iela,
tel. 727 89 76,
12.00 - last guest.
Thr, Fri, Sat live music starting at 19.00.

Brivie Vanagi (Free Hawks) - Pie Mazina
[note- It's a bikers hangout]

Some of the patrons have the wild "if-you-don`t-like-me-bite-me" attitude, which goes well with this joint`s leathery feel. It`s all right if you don`t ride, just don`t wear a suit or go tarnishing anyone else`s "horse of steel` and you`ll probably make it out unscathed and unbitten.

Main location:

35 Tallinas iela (B-8),
tel. 227 52 15,
10.00 - last guest.
Closed Sun.
Fri live music,
Sat striptease from 23.00.


In the basement of the Moroccan restaurant you can also enjoy funky, jazzy, disco and house music. Programme: Wed - Jaffa Riga, Thr - Varka Crew, Fri - AG&Raitis, Sat - Toms&Zagga.
Main location:

1 Smilsu iela (H-2),
08.00 - last guest.

Cetri Balti Krekli - Literature & music club (4 White Shirts)
[once some guys weren't let in because they were inapropriatery (sp) dressed]

Named after a Latvian movie, which was banned in the Soviet era. Rising and well-known Latvian bands perform here live, but all music played in this joint is 500% Latvian. So if you have the tympanic fortitude and seek an unforgettable Latvian thrill, this is the place to be, if you are lucky enough to fit into the 10% of foreigners whom they admit, as the voice-control is tight - can you say "labvakar" without an accent?

Main location:

12 Vecpilsetas iela (J-3),
tel. 721 38 85,
12.00 - 02.00,
Fri, Sat 12.00 - last guest.
Admission 1-04Ls.

Cita Opera (A Different Opera)

This basement restaurant, pricey cocktail bar and disco are very popular with the Latvian and expat crowd. Karaoke on Wed from 21.00, some people have a little talent, for the rest, have a drink too many and bring your ear plugs! On other days, very good dance music every day from 21.00.

Main location:

21 Raina bulv. (E-6),
tel. 722 07 70,
from 12.00.

One of the most "in" and sophisticated bars for the young, rich and beautiful. DJs play funky tunes on Friday and Saturday evenings, when it gets so crowded you can sometimes barely enter. See also Cafes and Bars.

Main location:

(in Berga Bazars)
84/1 Dzirnavu iela (E-7),
tel.728 92 41,
11.00 - last guest.


To be opened in 16 March.
Metro has closed, but don`t fall into despair. Guntis Vanags, one of the two owners of the Metro is going to continue the good traditions in a new, bigger venue with upgraded facilities such as improved ventilation and chill-out spaces. For those of you who prefer underground electronic music and jazz, serious house and techno - this is definitely going to be THE club.

[up to date- it's open now and it's a great club. Industrial style design, cool]

Main location:

32 Valnu iela

Eddies Club
This club situated in the former Vernisage is named after the manager Eddie Gee who has travelled from London to Riga to share some of his 27 years experience in the entertainment business. The idea of Eddie is to attract a more elite clientele than the former 15kW sound disco. For example, "The Majestic Lounge", situated on the upper level offers a snobby chill-out with the finest cognacs and brand quality cigars.

Main location:

2 Terbatas iela,
tel. 709 24 00,
Thr, Fri, Sat 20.00 –05.00.
Admission strictly over 21`s. 3-5 Ls.


Inspired by Shakespeare`s play this club/theatre is run by the Latvian Actors` Association and presents a variety of shows and plays by a host of well-known actors, musicians and dancers. On Thr drama performances on political issues and themes are played. Every Mon, Fri and Sun evening from 21.00 until 23.30, the Swing Time Ensemble proudly present the Swing Time Jazz Club.

Main location:

5 Jana Seta (I-2),
2nd floor,
tel. 722 99 38,
19.00 - last guest.

Hollywood Star Disco

Two-story dance bar with a 15m long bar and 25 TV screens hanging over it. Caged go-go girls are dancing for your entertainment. After trying the "1000$" cocktail - it`s actually 4Ls, so you can close your mouth again - watch the barmen perform their free-style show, swirling and spinning their glasses and shakers. Still not enough? OK, how about a Pamela Anderson cocktail to bring you in the mood? Hey, for only 5Ls she`ll be yours!

Main location:

2 Skolas iela (D-6), [don't venture further in skolas street from there. Although it's at the very centre , it's a bad idea to be at it's far/middle end after 10]
tel. 724 22 89,
Thr, Fri, Sat 21.00 - 06.00.
Admission: 5Ls,
free entrance on Thr and on Fri, Sat before 23.00.

Kabata (The Pocket)

This "Pocket" doesn`t slyly claim to contain the whole of Riga, but it is certainly teeming with the local Latvian youth. Kabata is a really cool place to meet friends for a fun night. Descend several levels into the cellars and head-bang with the local rock bands that play here on most evenings!

Main location:
19 Peldu iela (J-2),
12.00 - 17.00, 18.00 - 05.00.

Kalku Varti

The downstairs club of this centrally located restaurant is actually a spacious wine cellar, uncovered whilst digging the fundaments for this new establishment. Enjoy Latvian rock and blues, performed live by Latvian bands, in a classy atmosphere.

Main location:

11 Kalku iela (I-2),
tel. 722 45 76,
20.00 - 01.00,
Thr, Fri Sat 12.00 - 05.00.
Closed Sun, Mon.
Admission for people over 25: 3Ls.
Free entrance Tue, Wed.


Africa-inspired murals portray everything from mystical masks to funky cacti that are reminiscent of some spaced-out geckos on a good night. Drinks are cheap, so get ready for many a good night in this joint!

Main location:

18 Lacplesa iela (D-7),
tel. 728 22 87,
14.00 - last guest.

Karaliskas Bites Bluza Klubs (Royal Bee Blues Club)

New blues club where Riga`s best blues bands perform live. They are yet to get their prices right - they are in the wrong part of the Universe to be meddling with astronomical figures.

Main location:

34a Dzirnavu iela (C-6),
12.00 - 01.00,
Fri, Sat 12.00 - last guest.

Saksofons (The Saxophone)
[don't advice for forigners, you may get other prices and jokes like that]

Saksofons` remodelled look comprises of a larger and brighter interior and an absurd piece of the "antique" Russian GAZ automobile sticking out of the wall. Various artistic talents give shows and performances here, the main attraction, however, still lies in the local bands that daily play funky live music (mainly rock flavoured). Mostly Russian speaking service, but the affable staff is usually willing to try a little "charade" with their "dumb" foreign customers!

Main location:
43 Stabu iela (D-7),
tel. 731 28 54,
12.00 - 02.00.

[B]Nightlife / Night clubs

Dizzi House Music Club

DIZZI House music club invites to a journey into the best of house and garage music delivered by the finest of local house djs Bogdan Taran, Crumar, DSP, Rudd, Display every friday, saturday and sunday, as well as massive drum` n` bass, jungle and breakbeat allnighters on thursdays featuring best local drum`n` bass djs courtesy of recordings, Varka crew,, and others. The club itself represents a very friendly and happy atmosphere and has one of the best small-club sound systems in Latvia. The other features include a bar, a free drink for every visitor, regular video- art performances and all the way thru positive vibes.

Main location:

DIZZI House Music club
Maarstalju str.10 (entrance from Alksnaja street)
t. 7221902
thursday-sunday 20:00-06:00

La Rocca
[many russians and very loud]

The former Operetta theatre was revamped into a massive, contemporary dancehall featuring all the latest "screams" in laser and sound technology. If aggressive, mainstream dance music is your "thing" and you find go-go dancers an enticing allure, you will love La Rocca that has both of these "in Spades". In the evenings, certain local radio stations such as Mix FM often broadcast live from the disco. Check out the newest attraction: the Hear Rock Cafe, where local bands play live music.

Main location:

96 Brivibas iela (C-8),
Fri, Sat, Sun 22.00 - 09.00.
Admission 3-5Ls.


Riga`s BEST DJs flock and spin their funky vibes here, rendering this joint its unique effervescent atmosphere. Fridays and Saturdays from 21.00, the best Latvian DJs bring you garage, house, techno, drum `n` bass industrial. Our only wish is for it to get bigger! Drinks are reasonably priced.

Main location:

5 Lacplesa iela (C-6),
tel. 724 06 33,
Fri - Sat, from 21.00.


This elegant night-club also boasts a casino and attracts mostly a mature opulent clientele. You can savour a fine meal while watching spicy shows (on Fridays and Saturdays from 24.00 until 01.00). Original art works and sculptures perfect the phantasm. Friendly service. Excellent place for lone gentlemen who wish to turn a new leaf, the attentive manager will gladly assist you in your quest. On weekends reservation advisable.

Main location:

(in hotel Riga)
22 Aspazijas bulv. (I-3),
tel. 721 62 25,
19.00 - 05.00.
Admission 5Ls.


The 12kW sound and coruscating lasers mounted over the dance- floor put a person standing inches away out of ear-shot, but don`t despair, a chill-out room and a comfy VIP-zone are at your disposal should you require a quiet spot. Nautilus is designed like a futuristic submarine and is mostly submerged under the chaotic waves of house, funk and other dance-compelling music. It is an aspiring house Mecca with DJs Vetroff, Taran and Smile leading the "sermon". Programme: Wed 22.00 - The day of all students. Admission 1-2Ls); Thr - Disco. Admission 1-2Ls, entrance for girls free until 23.00; Fri 22.00 - start of the weekend. The best brand new club music from all over the world. Admission 3-5Ls; Sat 22.00 - All Times Favourites. All night long, together with the new entries, listen to the best hits of the Club Era for the past 10 years. Admission 3- 5Ls; Sun 22.00 - Weekend Hits. The results of the club weekend. Admission 2Ls.

Main location:

8 Kungu iela (J-2),
tel. 781 44 77,
fax 781 44 66,
22.00 - 08.00.
Admission 1-5Ls,
face and dress control.

Pulkvedim neviens neraksta (Nobody writes to the Colonel)

Definitely the place to visit! Named after Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel and artistically designed, this is a favourite and hippest hang- out for the alternative crowd. Music varies from punk to fusion and acid jazz. Check the programme at the entrance for an insight on the DJ`s demeanour. Programme: Tuesday nights - Pipe Dreamz (abstract vibes, deep house) Dj AG & Raitis +Varka Crew; Thr - underground punk rock live and ska by DJs; Fri - old school, alternative and ethnic music; Sat - ska, reggae.
Admission Tue, Wed, Sat 1Ls, Fri 2Ls.

Main location:

26/28 Peldu iela (J-2),
tel. 721 38 86,
12.00 - 02.00,
Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat 12.00 - 05.00.


The electrifying vibes of this sizzling night-club mostly draw posh party die-hards to the funk scene. Eurodance and Russian pop rule the dance floor; they are displaced by more tranquil rhythms in the wee hours.

Main location:

24 Kalku iela (I-2),
tel. 722 40 41,
23.00 - 06.00.
Admission 5Ls.

Slepenais Eksperiments (Secret Experiment)

Industrial design: steel pipes and bare brick define the interior. Attracts an energetic horde of grinning bipeds known to the rest of the world as Latvian teenagers.

Main location:

15 Skunu iela
(entrance from Amatu iela) (I-2),
tel. 722 79 17,
17.00 - 05.00.


Having survived yet another day of the city`s foul odours and heroically inhaled your share of CO and SO2 car emissions, why not throw a party for your lungs in the Baltics` first "Oxygen bar"? Get an O2 cocktail boost at the bar and now that you`re in the right frame of mind, welcome to the jungle, baby! A variegated Southern- Africa inspired interior featuring a myriad of masks and murals. The complex consists of: the Vodka bar - vending the exclusive Voodoo vodka; the Voodoo Tower Casino - the first theme casino of this kind, decked out in a specific style, in this case, Africa, that sports unique bamboo playing tables; the Voodoo disco - where techno is strictly outlawed and people chill out to 70s, 80s flowery funk and Latino vibes, expertly spun by the Irish ex-BBC radio DJ.
Main location:

(in Reval Hotel Latvija)
55 Elizabetes iela (D-6).
tel. 777 23 55
Vodka bar 08.00 - 05.00;
Casino 12.00 - 05.00,
Disco 20.00 - 05.30.
Closed Mon, Tue, Wed
Admission 4-5Ls;
Nightclub 20.00 - 05.30.
Admission: 5Ls.

08-22-02, 11:44 AM
You don't seem to enjoy any of it. You're always here:D

08-22-02, 12:49 PM
Actually I have DSL so my connection is almost all time on and there is also truth that I find more pleasure in somehow intellectual talks with sciforumers than hang out in a strip club.

I'm more the lone wolf type person, don't like big parties.

08-22-02, 01:07 PM

Latvia is among the few countries left in the world where natural ecosystems, largely untouched by man, still thrive in over 50 percent of its territory. It is a haven for the tourist who seeks to experience a land where nature and tradition have coexisted in harmony from time immemorial.

The country that we today call Latvia has long attracted foreigners – at first, invaders of all kinds, and later travellers and adventure seekers. For example, since the 1830s the region surrounding the city of Sigulda has been called the “Switzerland of Vidzeme” by German travellers who compared the sandstone banks of Sigulda’s Gauja valley with those of the Elba river in Saxony.
The Gauja valley

Unfortunately, in the 20th century Latvia suffered through two world wars, and from 1940 until 1991 it was occupied and isolated behind the Iron Curtain by the Soviet Union. As a result, Latvia has been relegated to a “blank spot” on modern European and world tourist maps. Today, this largely unknown land is waiting to be discovered, ready to be revealed as the colorful mosaic that is Latvia.


Where else can one find greater diversity? In Latvia you will find primordial wilderness areas characteristic of Scandinavia, a rich cultural heritage comparable to Middle Europe and a countryside of pastoral serenity.

Latvia – a land of diverse terrain where plains interchange with hillocks and river valleys. It is stately forests, broad marshes and clear waters. It is meadows, fields, groves, alleys, gardens and parks. Together these features form a unique mosaic that is the landscape of Latvia. It is a haven for the tourist who loves nature, respects tradition and has an interest in the culture of the local inhabitants. It is a place for those who enjoy social interaction and value the sense of achievement that comes from active approach to relaxation.

The Green Heart of Europe

If the territory of Latvia were magically transported to the heart of Western Europe, and the “blank spot” filled with its natural colors, what would be the result? We would see a territory resembling a nature preserve or national park, surrounded by the highly urbanized landscape of modern Europe.

Few countries remain in the world whose territories are dominated by ecosystems largely untouched by man. Where forests, marshes, lakes and rivers have developed over the centuries at their own pace, with minimal human interference. Where pristine sandy beaches stretch for 300 km unspoiled by resorts, restaurants or hordes of holidaymakers. No where else in Europe will you find such a large population of the black stork and the lesser spotted eagle. They represent 10% and 12% respectively, of the world population of these rare species.

Within 64,589 of territory, you will find hundreds of wolves and lynxes, 4,000 otters and 50,000 beavers.

World Wars I and II, and a brutal communist regime exacted a heavy price on human life throughout Latvia, leaving a present day population density of 38 inhabits to 1 But nature has thrived, filling the gap left by the horrors of war.
The rare black stork


Latvian forests are located in a mixed forest zone consisting of northern coniferous and southern deciduous trees. You will find a pine forest next to a linden tree forest, and throughout a diverse spectrum of other species. Because of the unique climate and terrain nearly one quarter of Latvia’s forests grow on wetlands. Many plant and animal species which can only survive in constant habitats have found a home here. It is the existence of the wetlands forests that insures a high standard of biological diversity. About 10% of Latvia’s forests meet the criteria for a natural forest. Latvia’s forests also harbor a rich supply of berries, wild strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and loganberries. The berry-picking season lasts from late June until late September. It is also the time for gathering mushrooms. The most popular mushrooms are the edible boletus, orange cap boletus, chanterelles and rusulla. If in the 1930s Latvia was known for its butter and bacon exports, then today it is known for its export of chanterelles. Apart from clearly marked private lands, the wealth of Latvia’s forests, berries, mushrooms and hazelnuts is accessible to anyone.

The Coast

The sea and coastal zone, which stretches 494 kilometres along the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Riga, is an important part of the Latvian landscape. Sand dunes of up to 32 metres, sandy beaches, rivers and their estuaries, forests, marshes and lakes form a continuous ecosystem that has developed as a result of interaction of the land and sea.

During the 50-year Soviet occupation most of the coast was a restricted area because it was considered a frontier zone. Commercial and recreational activity within this area was restricted. Today, this zone is still home to picturesque fishing villages that appear to have stepped out of a page in history. These villages were originally settled by the Livs, an ancient Finno-Ugric tribe that lived along the Baltic coast.
coast line, gulf of Riga

Coastal fishing traditions are essential part of Latvian culture. A fishing expedition with local fisherman, including preparation of the catch, can be an unforgettable experience. The fragrance of smoked fish is the unmistakable calling card of a coastal fishing village.

The small harbors, which were neglected during the Soviet era, are once again coming to life and await yachtsmen. Sailing from harbor to harbor it is possible to traverse nearly half of Latvia.

Unique natural areas have survived in coastal lowlands, one of these being Pape Lake and its surrounding environment. It is a typical 1,200 ha coastal lake. Rare species of birds, such as the bearded tit, common and little bittern, the corncrake, the hen harrier, the little and spotted crake nest in the lake and its surroundings. The lake and the nearby Nida marsh are important stopovers for bean and white-fronted goose and curlews during migration. The lakeshore boasts one of the few bird-watching towers in Latvia. Millions of land dwelling birds and thousands of migratory bats travel through the strip of dry land between Lake Pape and the Baltic Sea every year.


Compared to other European countries, marshes take up a significant proportion of Latvia. 4.9% of Latvia’s territory consists of open marshes. 70% of this marshland is largely undisturbed by human activity. Within these territory there are more than 20 protected plant species.

There are at least 15 species of birds that nest in marshlands, including the crane, golden plover, black grouse, whimbrel, merlin and peregrine. During periods of bird migration the marshes are important resting place for cranes and geese. There are 10 insect species and a rare species of snails. Marshes are also highly valued by berry pickers for the wide range of berries that grow there, including cranberries, cloudberries, cowberries and bilberries.

Teici State Reserve. It covers an area of 190 and is the largest protected marsh in the Baltic. A raised bog covers the larger part of the territory but there are also 19 lakes, hollows, mineral soil islands, fens, swamps, and natural meadows. The most intensive peat creation process in Latvia can be observed here. It also has the largest concentration of pre- migratory cranes in Latvia. An ancient Russian village of Russian Oldbelievers (people who hold to the Russian Orthodox as well as old pagan beliefs) still exists on one of the marsh islands. The marsh can only be entered in the company of a guide
one of our biggest marshes - Tirelpurvs

Lakes and Rivers

Latvia has over 12 thousand rivers that stretch for 38,000 kilometres, as well as 2,256 lakes with a collective area of 1000 Eastern Latvia, where many of these lakes are found, is known as the Land of the Blue Lakes. Nearly all inland waters are pollution-free and ideally suited for swimming and fishing. Although some of Latvia’s rivers have had their courses straightened, most large and medium size rivers retain their natural contours. As a result, their banks are home to such now rare European wildlife as otter, beaver and common kingfisher. Latvia is one of the few places in the Baltic Sea region where natural salmon spawning areas still remain. There are plenty of rivers suitable for canoeing and rafting.

Gauja National Park. The Gauja - Latvia’s longest river, extremely popular with tourists because none of its 452 kilometres has been regulated from its original course. For 90 kilometres the Gauja flows through an ancient river valley that is the heart of the Gauja National Park. Nowhere else in Latvia will you find so many steep banks, ravines, streams, sandstone and dolomite cliffs, and caves, as in the ancient Gauja river valley with its tributaries.

Like other national parks in the east of the Baltics, the Gauja National Park includes natural territories relatively untouched by man, as well as historic rural landscapes, and important ancient monuments. The park also offers walking trails, observation points, rest places, well established camping facilities, car parks, cafes, various types of tourist cabins, information centers and the services of knowledgeable guides.
the Gauja river

Rural Farms

The soul of Latvia is revealed in the typical rural farmyard, where one lives in harmony with nature’s laws and rhythms. It is a place where ancient traditions are respected and annual festivals are joyously celebrated.

On Ligo eve (Summer solstice) the traditional bonfire is lit in almost every yard. Ligotaji (the celebrants of the festival) who, during the day have gathered colorful Janu zales (field flowers), head off in pairs to seek the legendary secret fern blossom that blooms only once a year on this night. The single family farm is an integral part of the Latvian landscape. Many still look just as they did centuries ago.

The Latvian landscape is also unimaginable without its stately old trees, usually oaks that are several hundred years old and can be found in farmyards as well as in the fields. Here as well, Latvia has become home to 9,000 pairs of white storks. Today, an increasing number of farmers are opening their farms to tourists. More than 100 farms offer bed and breakfast services and a variety of leisure activities.

Protected Nature Areas

Latvia has a long tradition of nature conservation. The first laws and regulations concerning the use of forests were passed as early as the 1500s and 1600s. However, in the 1800s an effort was made to reforest the Baltic coastal dunes and the Gulf of Riga. In the 1900s proposals for conservation areas were initiated. The first protected area in Latvia was in the Kurzeme region - an island - Moricsala in the Usma Lake.

At present 6.8 % of Latvian natural territories are protected by law. There are five nature reserves, two national parks, and 240 protected areas (nature parks, protected landscape areas, restricted areas and biosphere reserves). Together, these places make up Latvia’s natural heritage, which awaits the visit of the keen eco-tourist, and offers a wealth of experience.

Text: Valdis Pilats, The Gauja National Park
Photographers: A.Eglitis, J.Pigoznis, V.Pilats, J.Zalans

08-22-02, 01:11 PM
Great pictures you've been posting, Latvia looks great. :)

08-22-02, 01:24 PM
Russians in Latvia at the Time of the Russian Empire

1. The History of the Russian Population in the Territory of Latvia
The history of Russians in Latvia is quite long - about a thousand years. Russian and Livonian chronicles state that the first Russian merchants came here as early as the XII-XIII centuries. But up to the time of Latvia’s complete incorporation into Russia in 1795, the Russians made up a very small part of the population here.

The most complete picture of the Russian population in Latvia at the time of the Empire is given by the First All-Russia Census of 1897. According to its data, at the end of the XIX century there were quite a number of Russians in Latvia - 171 thousand people spread unevenly on its territory. The biggest number of Russians, some 77 thousand, lived in Latgale, 68 thousand (5% of total population) - in Vidzeme. The smallest part of the Russian population lived in Kurzeme and Zemgale - 26 thousand (3.89% of total population). By the end of the XIX century Russians had become the second biggest nationality in Latvia after the Latvians themselves.

In urban areas of Latvia the Russian population was twice as large as in the country. 'Re only exception was Latgale where the number of city dwellers was only half as large as that of country dwellers. Half of the Russian population of Vidzeme, Kurzeme and Zemgale came from the nearby provinces of Russia. And in the Rezekne district of Latgale, for example, 10% of Russians had come from other provinces. The biggest number of newcomers came from the neighbouring provinces of the Empire - those of Kaunas, Vitebsk and Vilnius.

Like all the other Eastern Slays of Latvia, Russians differed from other national groups with their high natural increment of population.

In their social structure Russians differed from most of the nationalities of Latvia. The biggest social group among them were peasants (54%), and they made up the majority of Russians in Latgale. Middle classes made up 35% and hereditary and personal noblemen made up 8%. As far as their group characteristics are concerned, Russians were much like the Latvian Poles but differed from the Latvians who were mainly peasants and from the Germans who belonged mainly to the middle class.

Formation of the quite large Russian national group in Latvia was due to several reasons. In the XIX century a large amount of Russian capital was invested in trade through the Baltic countries. The profits from this trade became the basis of a number of Russian owned manufacturing establishments. When Russia acquired Latvia, some Russian noblemen became landowners here. From the middle of the XIX century the highly developing industry of Latvia began to attract Russian workmen. The biggest social source of Russian newcomers, however, were Russian peasants fleeing from Russia because of widespread religious and social oppression.

The most dynamic social group which began to settle in Latvia were the Russian merchants. Long ago the Polotsk principality and the merchants of ancient Novgorod established trade relations with Riga. Real penetration by Russian merchants became possible after the conquest of Riga by the troops of count Sheremetjev in 1710. But the Russian expansion was restrained by local regulations which strictly limited business activities of those merchants who did not belong to the Riga Merchant Guilds.

By the end of the XIX century, there emerged quite an appreciable group of Russian manufacturers in Latvia. As far back as the beginning of the present century, there was founded the Kuznetsov Porcelain Factory near Riga. A very large number of Russians were employed in brickworks supplying the building industry. The most notable among these manufacturers were E.Nesterov (he had 500 workers in his yards), F.Nesadomov (120 workers), V.Chikov (over 100 workers), Y.Karjakin (about 200 workers). But Russians were not at the head of the local business at that time. For instance, the working share of one worker at the brick-yards made up 259 roubles per annum while the corresponding figure was 120,000 roubles in wine production which was the monopoly of the Germans. There was no Russian large capital investment in foreign trade operations.

A big source of additional population were the Russian peasants. The mass migration of these peasants began in the second half of the XVI century and up to the beginning of the XX century it was sporadic. Its main reasons were religious oppression of Old Believers and a sharp aggravation of the economic position of peasants in Russia resulting, in part, from the conditions of serfdom.

It is difficult to give an exact judgement of the educational and cultural standard of the Russian population in Latvia in Tsarist times. The highest level of literacy - 70% - was the privilege of the Russian orthodox males. The corresponding figures for Old Believers were: men 25%, women 8%. As for the female population in total, the level of literacy of Russian women was the lowest in Latvia at that time.

2. Russian Mentality
Under the conditions of tsarism the dominating trend of Russian mentality in Latvia became the idea of a political nation. Moreover, it were the Russians who were thought representatives of the only political nation in the Empire and bearers of the Russian political system and culture. The ideas of this kind served as ground for exercising, in Latvia, a persistent policy of russification at the time of Alexander III and Nicholas II (mainly before the revolution of 1905- 1907). At the same time Russians tried to distinguish their interests from the interests of the state. Little by little, a certain part of the Russians of Latvia began to consider themselves as one of the many nationalities of Latvia. The Russian daily newspaper “Rizhskij Vestnyik” established the notion of “the needs and wants of the local Russian population”. Since the 1860s there appeared local Russian social organisations. The period of bourgeois reforms of Alexander II stimulated the rise of national consciousness of the Russian population in Latvia. In the elections to town councils and to the State Duma of the Russian Empire local Russians participated on a political basis.

The Russian National "Minority" in the Republic of Latvia

1. The Russian Population in the Republic of Latvia
On November 18, 1918, the Republic of Latvia was proclaimed as an independent democratic state. All the nationalities who lived in the territory of Latvia in the period of foreign rule, got the opportunity to develop as national minorities of the country. Ale Russians lost the status of their ethnic belonging to the Empire, but in Latvia they were given all the rights normally secured by democratic states.

The years of independent Latvia were favourable to the growth of the Russian national group. Not only in the whole of Latvia but in all the historical regions of the country the number of this national minority grew constantly.

According to the first statistical data of 1920 the number of the Russian population at that time was 91 thousand. In 1935 the number of the Russian minority had increased up to 206,4 thousand. During the whole period of independence, Russians remained the biggest national minority of the country. In 1935, the part of Russians in the whole structure of the population of Latvia made up 10.5% (in 1920 - 7.8%).

The growth of the Russian population was due to several factors. The Civil war and the establishment of Soviet power in Russia caused a flow of refugees and emigrants to many countries, Latvia included. According to the Peace Treaty between the Latvian Republic and Soviet Russia, some lands of the Pskov province with a large number of Russians passed on to Latvia. But the main cause of the Russian population growth was their high natural birth rate. For example, in 1929 the natural increment of Russians was 2.8 thousand, while the natural increment of Latvians, whose total number in that same year was nine times as big as that of Russians, made up only 3.7 thousand.

Russians used to have the biggest number of large families in comparison with other national groups of Latvia. As in the tsarist times, Russians still remained one of the “youngest” ethnic groups of Latvia. The Russian children aged under fourteen made up 14% of the total number of the children of Latvia of the same age. Russian families during the period of independence were characterised by a very high stability. The average number of divorces of Russian families was two times smaller than that of Latvian families and five times smaller than that of German families.

Big changes took place in the structure of the territorial settlement of Russians in Latvia. Three quarters of the Russian population lived in Latgale, 14% in Riga.

In comparison with the tsarist period of the history of Latvia, Russians acquired more “country and agricultural” features and lost those of “town and industry”. The overwhelming majority of Russians were engaged in agriculture (80%). 7% were engaged in industry, 4.9% - in trade. The fact that Russian inhabitants of the country had their farms mainly in Latgale, the least economically developed part of the country, did not stimulate them to social movement towards prestigious kinds of labour and agriculture. In the towns of Vidzeme, Kurzeme, and Zemgale the social picture of Russians approached the all-Latvian one. But even there, Russians did not belong to economically and socially advanced national groups. Russians differed from Latvians, Germans and Jews by a smaller part of property owners and a widespread use of child labour.

The total level of literacy of the Russian population at the very beginning of the history of the Latvian Republic was lower than at the time of the Empire. Only 42% of Russian men and 28% of Russian women of Latvia could read and write in 1920. During the years of independence the number of Russian pupils at schools increased greatly (1.5 times - the highest rate in the period of 1925-1935). As a result, the difference between the number of Latvian and Russian students aged 6-20 was reduced considerably (54% and 47% correspondingly).

Russians were underrepresented in institutions of higher education. In 1920 there were only 65 Russian students at the University of Latvia, in 1939 - 220 students.

For a long time the Latvian Republic tried to integrate the Russian minority on the basis of a large national-cultural autonomy. National schools of Latvia widely used their right to teach children in their mother tongue. Russian schools were not an exception. The Russian language played a particularly important role at the stage of primary education. By the end of the 1920s, 92% of Russian children were being educated at Russian primary schools. The development of the network of secondary schools also took into account the demands of national minorities to receive education in their own language. At the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s there was an increasing tendency by parents from minority groups to send their children to Latvian language schools. In 1935 60% of Russian children were educated in their mother tongue.

The popularity of the Russian language in Latvia resulted from the fact that Russians did not seek to learn the Latvian language and other minority languages properly.

The Latvian language was not attractive to the Russian population of Latvia. In 1920-1930 only a little more than 15% of Russians could speak and write Latvian. The Latvian milieu of many towns was a good incentive for Russians to learn the Latvian language. 70% of Russian residents of Jelgava and more than 80% of those of Bauska, Valmicra and Kuldiga spoke Latvian.

2. Political life and consciousness of the Russians of the Republic of Latvia
The establishment of the Latvian State, in November 1918, made local Russians work out new principles of their relations with the government. Under the new conditions, the Russians of Latvia be- came a national minority whose special cultural interests were regulated by the Law on the Cultural-National Autonomy of Minorities, adopted by the People’s Council.

Russians of Latvia enjoyed full rights as its citizens and, therefore, took part in the political life of the country. Russians, as a national minority, participated in the elections to the Constituent Assembly of Latvia and to all the four Saeimas.

From two to six per cent of all Latvian electors voted for Russian parties. In the areas highly populated by Russians - Riga and Latgale - more and more Russian electors voted for Russian parties during the whole period of the parliamentary state.

Special historical conditions determined a specific attitude of Russians towards the idea of national-cultural autonomy. They accepted the autonomous character of Russian culture in respect to Latvian culture. But they believed that there was no local autonomy in respect to Russian culture and Russian people in general. Local Russian society did not identify any special features characteristic of local Russians which would differentiate them from the Russians of Russia.

During the period of the Latvian Republic, the local Russian inhabitants tried to work out their own principles of social consciousness. A characteristic feature of the Russian social consciousness was a continuous controversy between adherents of different ideas.

At the beginning of the Republic, 1918-1919, the orthodox wing of the National-Democratic League (N.Bordonos) - the first Russian national union of Riga and, then, of the whole of Latvia - spoke in favour of ethnic purity of Russian social organisations. The liberal wing of the NDL and, later, the Russian Society of Latvia (N.Berejanski, S.Mansyrev) called for a close co-operation by the Russian minority with the whole Latvian society.

From the liberal consciousness of the NDL there emerged some elements of a specific ideology among a part of the Russian population of Latvia – “democratic nationalism”. Its mouthpiece was the publicist Berejanski. He thought that the fate of the Russians of Latvia was not easy. Their historical motherland was in the hands of “Bolshevik internationalism”, the enemy of Russian national culture and ethics. Russians were grateful to democratic Latvia for granting the opportunity to develop their culture. But Russians themselves, N.Berejanski thought, had to strengthen to the utmost, within their consciousness, the notion of national values. The followers of this idea worked on the Russian newspaper “Slovo” (“Word”). At the same time the most famous Russian newspaper “Segodnia” did not pretend to propagate Russian national ideas, but advocated the ideas of defence of the cultural-national autonomy of all minorities.

A flamboyant exponent of Russian national principles was N.Belotsvelov who considered that the conversion of Russians to nationalism was a natural result of the fate of emigrants fearing for the future of their culture.

The ideas of “democratic nationalism” were supported by the leaders of the Russian Peasants’ Union which had a right-wing orientation. The RPU became the basis of the Russian Peasant faction of three deputies in the Fourth Saeima.

A part of Russians belonged to the ultra-left of the political spectrum. (In the Fourth Saeima, one Russian represented the social democrats and one Russian was a communist representative). But the left-wing parties of Russians did not achieve any big success though they had a certain influence among sections of the workers of Riga.

Russians in Occupaied Territory of Latvia in 1940-1990

1. The Russians of Latvia in 1940-1941
In summer of 1940 there began the most tragic events in the history of Latvia. The country lost its independence and was incorporated into the USSR.

The attitude of the Russian milieu towards these events varied. Three kinds of positions can be discerned, in regard to the political changes:
1. A complete disagreement with the Bolshevik regime was characteristic of the Russian inelligentsia and priests.
2. A part of the Russian public of Latvia were under an illusion regarding Stalin's dictatorship, hoping that it would turn into a political system similar to that of the Russian monarchy.
3. A full support for the Bolshevik regime in Latvia. During one year of Soviet power, Russians here were deprived of all their national periodicals, many of the prominent Russian public figures were subjected to repression or killed.

But the new regime also found supporters among local Russians. Russian collective farms emerged in Latvia and there were a large number of Russians in the security services and units of the workers’ guard. The communist nomenclature was being rapidly developed, local Russians taking an active part in it.

2. The Russians of Latvia in 1941-1944
Latvia entered into the Second World War as a part of the USSR. Both Russians and Latvians shared the fate of Nazi policies of oppression.

A part of the local Russian population took part in hostilities against fascism in the Red Army ranks and in the partisan movement, supporting the Communist party.

But, at the same time, there were quite a number of Russians collaborating with the Nazi authorities. They worked on the newspapers propagandising the myth of “a national Russia” free of Bolsheviks and Jews, and “the liberating mission” of the Wehrmacht. Russians were won over to militarised units. The Nazis made advances to those of the Russian population who had suffered from the Bolsheviks. The newspapers of that time were full of information about Russian National culture. In Daugavpils there was opened a Russian theatre, in the Rezekne Teachers’ Institute - a Russian language class for teachers of Russian was set up, etc.

An institution was created for representing the interests of the Russian population of the Generalgebiet of Latvia as well as the Russian Committee for the Affairs of the Russian population of Latvia. These were designed to help Russians with some of their economic, cultural and legal needs.

3. Peculiarities of the post-war migration of Russians to Latvia
After Latvians, the Russians are the largest ethnic group in today's Latvia. In 1989 this national group made up 34,8% of the whole population of Latvia and its total number was 905,5 thousand. In comparison with the demographic situation of the pre-war period, the number of Russians had increased 4.5 times. Their share in the national structure of the population of Latvia had increased 3.5 times.

Such a big growth of the Russian population could not be explained solely by natural increase. The majority of the Russian national group in Latvia today are here as a result of a big migration movement, mainly from Slav republics of the USSR, first of all, from the Russian Federation.

Russians preferred to settle in towns rather than in the country. They tended to choose such big cities as Riga and the like. Russians differed from Latvians in their social and professional characteristics. Over one third of the Russian population were engaged in industry (one quarter of Latvians), 7% of Russians (22% of Latvians) were engaged in agriculture, 1% of Russians (2.5% of Latvians) - in the sphere of culture and art. The percentage of Russians in administration was two times as large as that of Latvians (6.4% and 3%). In other social activities Russians differences were negligible.

Russians were the biggest ethnic group in the USSR both in number and in ideological influence. Under the conditions of Soviet Latvia, Russians dominated the whole non-Latvian population of the Republic. Latvia was the place where consolidation of Russian- speakers on the basis of their mother tongue was successfully put into effect. The Russian language also formed a new group of Russian speaking Byelorussians, Ukrainians, Poles, Jews and Germans of Latvia. And though in the period of 1959-1979 the number of Russians in Latvia increased by 47%, the number of the non-Russian population considering Russian their mother tongue increased by 78%. A highly developed infrastructure was developed in Latvia on the basis of the Russian language (the system of secondary and higher education, science, means of mass media, state-party control of economy and social life).

4. National consciousness of the Russians of the Latvian SSR
During the whole Soviet period, the Russian mass media of Latvia played the part of active bearers of the communist ideology, influencing the consciousness of the Russians of Latvia. That is why this consciousness had purely communist features.

For the whole Soviet period there was no suitable formula at the official level to express national-cultural features of this large group of Latvian residents. The ideology of the Communist party rejected the tradition of the Latvian Republic which identified the Russians of Latvia as one of its national minorities. In the USSR there existed a form of national-territorial autonomy of nations, but not for all nations, which made their social representation in the state bodies unequal and, as a result, their influence on social minds was unequal as well. A nation could be considered “fully-fledged” only if it possessed a state system in the form of a union republic. Therefore, there was only one nation in Latvia - Latvians. The Russians of Latvia, both those who had deep historical roots here, and those who chose it as a place of permanent residence after World War II, having no territorial autonomy, were not considered as an individual cultural and national community in the Republic.

During the almost forty years of the history of the Russian communist consciousness of Latvia there were no new ideas. Such ideas came only with the first marked democratic changes in the USSR at the end of the 1980’s.

The start of democratic processes brought about national awakening of peoples. New democratic tendencies gave equal chances to the national revival of both Latvians and Russians. Some part of Russians actively supported the Latvian awakening. Both individual representatives of the Russian public and some groups of Russians believed that “Atmoda” (Awakenining) should be irreversible. Thus, in July 1988, A.Maltsev was one of the 17 prominent figures of Latvian culture who signed an open letter to the Broadened Assembly of the Latvian Writers' League with the initiative of establishing a democratic People’s Front.

The idea of establishing the Popular Front of Latvia was supported by the Russian writers of the Republic - L.Azarova, R.Dobrovenski, V.Dozortsev and M.Kostenetska, the journalist A.Grigorjev, A.Kazakov, the translator and bibliographer J.Abyzov, and many others. In 1989 L.Gladkov, Y.Dozortsey, V.Zhdanov, V.Kononov and M.Kostenetska were elected to the Council of the People’s Front of Latvia. V.Dozortsev became a member of the Board of the Council of the Popular Front of Latvia. A.Grigorjev was one of the editors of “Atmoda” (Awakening) - the newspaper of the PFL. The circulation of the Russian edition of “Atmoda” was quite big (15 - 100 thousand). It was popular not only with the Russian residents of Latvia but with the democratic public of Russia as well.

The PFL became the basis of consolidation of the Russian Culture Society of Latvia (RCSL). The Constituent Assembly of the RCSL was held on March 4, 1989. The aim of the Society was 'to develop to the utmost the Russian national culture, to intensify traditional Russian-Latvian relations, cooperate with the representatives of all nationalities of the Republic".

But at the same time quite a number of the Russians of Latvia viewed the revival of the Latvian state system with mistrust. This is shown by the results of a public opinion poll in 1989. Only 49% of the non-Latvian population supported the idea of the independence of Latvia (The number of Latvians supporting the idea made up 93%).

“The International Front of the Working People of Latvia”, established in 1989, came out openly against the idea of Latvian independence.

“The Interfront” aimed to win the sympathies of those Russians who were not deeply integrated into the Latvian society, did not speak Latvian and did not prize much the national characteristics of this country.

Russians in the Restored Republic of Latvia

1. Russian remigration
The formation of the Latvian national state was accompanied by a number of political measures which were strategically aimed at the increase of the proportion of Latvians in Latvian society. Evidently, it couldn't be achieved without stimulating a big number of non- Latvians to leave the country. No less important incentive for remigration of Russians, as well as Ukrainians and Byelorussians, was the foundation of the independent states of Russia, Byelorussia and Ukraine in 1991 which could provide for a better development of the national identity of these peoples. But, of course, it can't be stated that remigration of Russians was characteristic only of the period of the restored independent Latvia.

In 1991-1992 there was a big leap in the migratory outflow from Latvia. In 1991 the number of people who left the country exceeded by 11.2 thousand the number of arrivals, in 1992 the figure had increased to 47.2 thousand.

Russian remigration from independent Latvia show that it has resulted in the ageing of the Latvian society and the loss of people of working age. While the number of immigrants aged 30-44 and under 18 made up 32% of the total number of immigrants, the same groups made up 61% of the remigrants in 1993.

This broad Russian emigration from Latvia aggravated the problem of their own national identity. There appeared two tendencies in the Russian consciousness. One tendency is stimulating the ethnic consolidation of Russians. The other one, on the contrary, is reducing the intra-ethnic dependence. The second tendency becomes most apparent when a nation does not see any favourable prospects of its development within some national structure, when people consider their ethnicity as an obstacle to achieving social comfort. In this case, many people would prefer to assimilate in the milieu of the socially prestigious and dominating nation. If it is not so easy for themselves, at least, their children might have a chance to do so.

2. Self-consciousness of the Russians in the Republic of Latvia
The restoration of the Latvian Republic took place in the period of the crisis in the Soviet Union, leading to its complete break-up. And the Russian state system began to be restored in its place. For the first time in history there were established such conditions under which Latvia and Russia could coexist as independent and democratic states.

This process had an immediate effect on the minds of the Russians of Latvia. They found themselves in a situation which suggested different norms of behaviour. One of them is a natural desire of people to develop within their own national culture which had had a longstanding support from the state. But taking up this option now meant remigration back to Russia.

The formation of the legal state system in Latvia created conditions for advancing social organisations of the Russian residents of Latvia and of their social initiatives. The most well-known of them is the Russian Community of Latvia (President of the RCL is B.Borisov).

The RCL was founded in 1991 immediately after the recognition of Latvia’s independence by the world community. At the first stage, the Russian Community included 360 members, in 1995 - over 800 members. From the very beginning the RCL determined cultural and social priorities – “creation of an integral real and effective system of different kinds of defence and mutual assistance, both spiritual, moral and material, for all members of the community during their lives”. According to the RCL’s ideology, the consolidating basis of Russians is the Russian language but not their ethnic origin. In the constituent documents of the Russian Community, the idea of the national minority of Russians in Latvia did not meet support. The RCL does not support the official standpoint distinguishing the Russian residents of Latvia by their political status - citizens of the Republic and non citizens, who were previously citizens of the former USSR. Neither does it differentiate ethnic Russians from other Russian-speaking residents of the country.

The Russian Community of Latvia may be considered as reviving those elements of Russian consciousness which were cultivated at the time of the Latvian Republic in 1918-1940. Like in 1920-1930 there is a tendency to develop a Russian social infrastructure. Contemporary Russians appreciate the idea of cultural-national autonomy which had been put into effect in the pre-war Latvia. The RCL is a social organisation rather than a political one, but it has undertaken to strengthen the Latvian state system.

The statutes of the Russian Community of Latvia still reflect, however, the difference between the Russian consciousness of the period of the restored Latvia and that of the pre-war State. At that time, life outside Russia was a tragedy for Russians. They couldn't go home where they could be physically destroyed. The Russians of pre-war Latvia hoped for the revival of the legal Russian state with which the connected their fully fledged development.

Apart from the RCL the most prominent Russian national societies in Latvia are:
1. The Balto-Slavonic society of cultural development and cooperation (the oldest Russian social society in contemporary Latvia, founded in 1988). The BSS includes about 100 members. The Chairman of the BSS is B.Popov.
2.'Tle Latvian society of Russian culture. It was founded in 1989. The membership is about 100. The Chairman is Jury Abyzov.
3. The centre of humanities and education “Yedi” established by the Council of the Old Believers' Community and the Orthodox Eparchy. The President is I.Ivanov.
4. Tle Latvian Foundation of Slavonic Written Language and Culture. It was founded in 1989. 'Re members of the Foundation are the Riga Russian community, the Ukrainian society “Dnipro” and the Byelorussian society “Svitanak”. 7he President of the Foundation is M.Gavrilov.

On June 16, 1995, eleven Russian national-cultural societies and other organisations of the Latvian Republic signed the agreement on the constitution of the Council for the Russian Societies of Latvia. The aim of the constituent agreement is “to promote preservation, study, and popularisation of Russian national traditions and culture, spiritual and ethical values and intellectual and creative heritage of the Russian people”.

Text: Vladislavs Volkovs, the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology

08-22-02, 02:54 PM
i dont visit other countries for the nightlife; to me this is pointless and does'nt interest me one bit. call me old fashioned if you will, i go abroad to learn about the country and to experience different cultures. So what i'm reading from you that Russians are generally not liked or wanted in your country avatar?

08-22-02, 03:07 PM
So what i'm reading from you that Russians are generally not liked or wanted in your country avatar?
You speak like wise king Solomon:)

08-22-02, 03:12 PM
A truly beautiful presentation of our country - you won't regret seeing this - promise

Latvia is in the heart of Europe and on its way to meet the challenges of the 21st century. This 5-minute video takes you on a musical tour of Latvia today – the people and the very special places that make it one of the Baltic Sea’s natural and cultural treasures.

Featuring the song
“Welcome to my Country” by Brainstorm.

for all you who have DSL's or cables or value quality
Mpeg - 32Mb (

quality suffers and I don't advice you this smaller one
RealMedia - 18Mb (

say how you liked it :)

08-22-02, 03:16 PM
wait-a-minute, you dont work for the Latvian tourist board do you? :D

08-22-02, 03:25 PM
just do my best to represent/present our country

I'm a bloody patriot

08-22-02, 03:27 PM
I'm a bloody patriot
whats that like then? you arent one of those blind patriots are you? its one thing im not - a patriot

08-22-02, 03:33 PM
no , I'm not. I see many bad things and I don't like our government and corrupted officials much, but that doesn't hold me back frm loving our country (not government), history, traditions, mythology, nature, culture(although it's far from ideal).
And I'm loyal as weird as it sounds.
Our world has many beautiful countries, many great people are not latvians, but Latvia is my home, I'm a latvian and there's no place like home to be elsewhere found.
stand and fall for it lol

08-22-02, 03:37 PM
i'm happy for you, i really am. i've never felt like that.

08-22-02, 03:57 PM
Hey Avatar :D ,
would you be willing to host a bunch of us if we all decided to visit Latvia? I'm thinking about visiting..

P.S. - does Latvia have any Castles? I like castles

08-22-02, 04:06 PM
Hey Avatar ,
would you be willing to host a bunch of us if we all decided to visit Latvia? I'm thinking about visiting..

hey, thats not nice, you dont ask these sort of just turn up. the element of surprise. lol, kidding. i'm hoping to travel when i finish uni.

08-22-02, 04:09 PM
There are some and there are many mansions owned long ago by the German dukes and landlords

I unfortunately can't host people- student and short of cash. I think that in after some 4 years I could invite some sciforumers who would like to visit Latvia.

08-22-02, 04:16 PM
I caN totally relate to being short on cash - aren't we all? Some castles huh, and mansions? One more point on the list of reasons to go to Latvia :D

Captain Crunch,
I too plan on extensive travel throughout my soon as i finish goddamned highschool. I believe that the summer between school and university me and a friend are gonna go on a really long bike tour of Europe - from Spain to Moscow we were thinking. It'll be awesome! :cool:

I'm also thinking of joining the Peace Corps after university - that'd be a pretty worldly experience too i think. Though i dunno, anything could go :rolleyes:

08-22-02, 04:20 PM
none of my freinds are interested in traveling. I've got itchy feet so to speak, i dont feel that i have a purpose when i'm not traveling which unfortunatly only happens once a year. And the rest of the time i feel dead.

08-22-02, 04:29 PM
I saw no full statistics, and though few would be interested in them, you can't do without them either:rolleyes:
don't notice- continue your discussion:)

Republic of Latvia, abbreviated: Latvia

Latvian: Latvija
Lithuanian: Latvija
Estonian: Läti
German: Lettland
French: Lettonie
Spanish: Letonia

The name "Latvia" originates from an ancient Baltic (Indo-European) tribe - the Latgalians (in Latvian: latgali), who formed the ethnic core of the Latvian people.

Country code: LV

The Republic of Latvia was founded on November 18, 1918. It has been continuously recognised as a state by other countries since 1920 despite occupations by the Soviet Union (1940-1941, 1945-1991) and Nazi Germany (1941-1945). On August 21, 1991 Latvia declared the restoration of its de facto independence. (more...)

The flag of the Republic of Latvia
The coat of arms of the Republic of Latvia

Latvia is the central country of the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania). On the world map Latvia is to be found in North-eastern Europe, on the east coast of the Baltic Sea. The landscape of the country is marked by lowland plains and rolling hills. Most of the countryside is less than 100 metres above sea level. There are thousands of rivers and lakes in Latvia.

Area: 64,589 or 24,937 sq.miles.
Regions: Kurzeme, Zemgale, Vidzeme, Latgale.
Total national border length: 1,862 km.
Length of Latvia’s Baltic coastline: 494 km.
Largest lake: Lubans, 80.7
Deepest lake: Dridzis, 65.1 metres.
Longest river within Latvian territory: the Gauja, 452 km.
Largest river to flow through Latvian territory: the Daugava, total length 1,005 km, of which 352 km within Latvian territory.
Highest point: Gaizinkalns, 311.6 metres.
(Map of Latvia)

(1 km = 0.62 mile; 1 m = 39.37 inches)

Borders with other countries: Estonia, Russia, Belarus, Lithuania.
Latvia is situated on a trading cross-roads and has long since served as a bridge between Western Europe and Russia. The famous "route from the Vikings to the Greeks" mentioned in ancient chronicles stretched from Scandinavia through Latvian territory along the Daugava River to the ancient Russia and Byzantine Empire.

Latvia’s weather is governed by a moderate oceanic climate, with pronounced cyclone activity and a considerable amount of precipitation.
Summer: June - August.
Winter: December - February.
The average temperature in summer is 15.8°C (in the capital 16.1°C), the average temperature in winter is –4.5°C (in the capital –3.8°C).
The warmest month - July, the coldest - January.
The average precipitation amount in summer is 195 mm, in winter - 116 mm.

Latvia is situated in a nature zone between the vegetation of Northern and Central Europe. Latvia is a country of splendid and diverse natural landscapes. Forests cover 44 percent of the territory. The larger forest tracts are to be found in the northern part of Kurzeme. Here it is still possible to enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of nature untouched by man.
Latvia distinguishes itself with a large variety of flora and fauna (total aprox. 27.7 thousand species).
Latvia’s fauna is typical for a region with mixed forests. Latvia has the largest otter population in Europe, and there is a much greater chance of seeing the rare black stork in Latvia’s forests than in any other European country. (more...)

Official language: Latvian.

Hi - Sveiks!
Goodbye – Uz redzeshanos!
Yes – Ja!
No – Ne!
Thank you – Paldies!
Please – Ludzu!
Sorry – Atvainojiet!

The Latvian language is a Baltic language, which belongs to the Indo-European family of languages. The Latvian language is considered one of the oldest of the Indo-European (European) languages. It is a non-slavic and a non-germanic language, similar only to Lithuanian. (more...)

Most common foreign languages: English, Russian, and German.

Type of government: democratic, parliamentary republic.
Legislative power is in the hands of a single chamber parliament - the Saeima, consisting of 100 deputies. Parliamentary elections take place every 4 years.
The country’s head of state is the President, who is elected by the Saeima for a period of 4 years. The President signs laws, chooses the Prime Minister (who heads the government) and performs representative functions.

Electoral system: proportional representation. There is universal suffrage for Latvian citizens over 18 years of age.

Latvia is a member of United Nations Organisation, Council of Europe, World Trade Organisation, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of the Baltic Sea States, Euro- Atlantic Partnership Council, etc.

Strategic goals
Since the restoration of independence in 1991, Latvia plays an active role in world affairs. A key foreign policy goal is full membership in the European Union and NATO. (more...)

Population in 2002: 2,351,400

Ethnic composition (2000):
57.6% Latvian,
29.6% Russian, [Hey!- less Russians:)]
4.1% Belorussian,
2.7% Ukrainian,
2.5% Polish,
1.4% Lithuanian,
0.4% Jewish,
1.7% other nationalities.

Latvians are the indigenous people of Latvia.
The ethnic mix of the population of Latvia is largely the result of massive post-war immigration, which resulted in a decline in the share of ethnic Latvians from 77% in 1935 to 52% in 1989.

The state guarantees free primary and secondary (high school) education. More than 90% of children attend state schools which provide free education. 9 years of primary education are obligatory. The most of the students attend state-universities. Apart from state-financed educational institutions, there are also private schools and private universities in Latvia. Latvia also has state- financed ethnic minority schools or classes where courses are presented in Belorussian, Estonian, Gypsy, Hebrew, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian.

Largest religious confessions: Evangelic Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox.
Since the Reformation movement in the 16th century, the Lutheran church has played a leading role in Latvia.

Nearly one third of Latvia’s population (788 thousand) lives in the capital city Riga. Riga, the oldest still existing medieval city, was founded in 1201. The value of Riga’s cultural and historical significance has been recognised by the fact that its old city centre has been included in UNESCO’s list of the world’s most important cultural and natural sites.

Largest towns and cities: Riga, Daugavpils, Jelgava, Jurmala, Liepaja, Ventspils, Rezekne, Valmiera and Jekabpils.
Today, 77 towns and cities are located within Latvia’s borders. 23 cities have a population of over 10,000.

Latvia’s three major ports are Ventspils, Riga and Liepaja.
Ventspils is the busiest port in the Baltic Sea region and is among the 15 leading European ports in terms of cargo turnover. (more...)

The most prospective production sectors: information technologies, electronics and mechanical engineering, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, wood processing, food processing industry, textiles industry.

Special economic zones: Ventspils Free Port, Liepaja Special Economic Zone, Rezekne Special Economic Zone. Incentives in special economic zones include 80-100% reduction in corporate, property and land taxes, full exemption from VAT and customs duties upon the import of goods into the zone from abroad.

The largest trade-partner: the European Union.

Latvian national currency is the lats (LVL), 1 lats consists of 100 santims. The Latvian currency has remained strong and secure since its inception in 1993. The stability of lats is a result of covering the supply of the national currency with gold reserves, hard currency reserves, and investments in a diversified collection of foreign currencies.

National holiday
November 18, the date of the proclamation of Latvia’s independence.

Most important traditional festival
The annual celebration of the summer solstice, known as Jani is generally viewed as the most important Latvian holiday. Jani is celebrated on June 23 and 24. These days of celebration mark the summer solstice with a colourful array of ancient traditions whose origins date back thousands of years. (more...)

© Text: Raimonds Ceruzis

08-22-02, 04:37 PM

Any nation’s basic diet is defined by its geographical location. The wealth of Latvia has always been unevenly dispersed over its four regions. The table of a Zemgale nobleman differed from that of a Kurzeme fisherman or a Latgale peasant. According to principles of ethics expounded in Latvia’s oral traditions everywhere food was served by a white (i.e., virtuous) hostess on a clean table with a generous hand. The male head of the household cut the first slice of bread; members of the household bowed their heads out of respect for the leader; in quiet voices they thanked God and the giver. Bread was the fruit of work, which is holy in Latvian culture.

Slaughtering of the cattle was adjusted with the seasons, which caused very interesting traditions to emerge. For the various holidays the food was very interesting.

Most typical food specialities

Infrequently a dessert called iejavputra is prepared from the yeast water. It is brought to a boil together with sliced dried apples. Rye or unrefined wheat flour is added to make porridge, which is sweetened with honey. Yeast can also be beaten into froth and served cool with milk.

Sweet-sour rye bread (saldskabmaize) is baked from finely ground rye flour.

Sklandu rausi is a type of bun that is traditionally baked in Kurzeme, Latvia’s western-most region. It is made of rye flour with carrots and potatoes, apple and cottage cheese pies. The name is derived from a word meaning “fence”. The buns are formed with a “fence” – a border which prevents the filling from running off and gives the bun a pretty appearance. The fence is made by lifting up the dough on the sides and twisting it into “sausages”, “herring-bones” or “ropes”.

The Zemigalians and the Kursi make karasas from wheat flour, but in Vidzeme placeni (flat cakes) are made from barley meal.

The women of Vidzeme make sutnes – a steamed mixture of grains. This dish is served with fresh or curdled milk.

Beans and peas also a main staple of the Latvian diet. These are served in all seasons. In summer, broad beans are boiled with their pods and served with buttermilk or curdled milk. Peas are eaten during winter and always on the eve of the winter solstice (or Christmas Eve): boiled peas with a small amount of lard are heated in the oven. Pea balls (zirnu pikas) are made from boiled, mashed peas. At Christmas time you may also be served a smoked pig’s half head or only its snout with peas, beans, blood sausage and other types of sausages.

The tables in Zemgale and Kurzeme are unimaginable without the traditional skabputra (sour porridge), a drink made from barley groats beaten together with milk.

A refreshing drink called maizes kvass is made from bread crusts.

Birch juice, either fresh or fermented, has always been a natural and healthy drink for Latvians in early spring and in the heat of the summer. This “elixir of life” is poured into a wooden barrel and sprinkled with grains of barley. The seeds sprout, creating a green cover, but the juice ferments with a special taste. Brown, fermented birch juice is a result of adding roasted rye bread crusts. Taste additives: black currant branches and peppermint. Nowadays birch juices are prepared with lemon and orange rind, raisins, cinnamon, etc. A skilled maker may even offer you birch champagne.

Beer, whether dark or light, bitter or sweet (medalus), is an integral part of the Latvian summer solstice. On the so-called “Eve of Grasses” (23rd of June) you will be met by a hostess carrying cheese rounds and piragi (buns filled with smoked bacon), but the male head of the household carries about a pitcher of frothy home-made beer, serving it to his guests. The scent of summer fields, grass, and flowers overwhelms the senses. The Janu siers (Solstice cheese, Janu cheese) is prepared in every household. The cheese varies in its consistency from soft to hard, with caraway seeds or without them. Lean cheese is smeared with butter.

The Latvian table will always surprise you. In the spring, especially in late April, you can prepare zidenis – a porridge made from pearl barley boiled together with a pig’s ear or tail, which symbolises long ears of grain and therefore should be eaten by the sower.

At Easter coloured eggs are placed on the table. The eggs are usually a luscious brown, which is achieved by boiling them in onion skins. A fern-green colour comes from the leaves of the birch branches, which are used year-round to massage the pirts (steam-house) – goers. Frequently, eggs are wrapped in yarn, leaves, blades of grass, dried heather, lingonberry leaves or grains, which leave lovely designs on the egg’s brown hue. Eggs are also coloured with dried blueberries.

During the winters in the olden days the Latvian homestead had very little milk to spare, but in the spring, when the cows calved, milk once again occupied a prominent position in the Latvian diet. In Vidzeme, farm cheese is served as a spread embellished with poppy butter. Boiled or baked potatoes are eaten with bacon and farm cheese fried with onions. Flat cakes are baked from rough wheat, buckwheat, barley meal or even bean flour.

Poppy butter is made from dried, crushed or ground poppy seeds. The seeds are crushed or milled until they turn into a greasy, black mass. Staks or stenkis is a poppy mass diluted with milk or water. It is used as an additive to various foods: pea porridge, pea balls, as a frosting for flat cakes and bread.

Kiselis (a dessert which is usually made from fruit, berries, also from flour and milk, and may by thickened with starch) is boiled from oats. If kiselis is served hot, then it is topped with cubed, fried, smoked or salted bacon fritters. When the gruel cools, it becomes the thick oat kiselis. As a dessert it can be eaten together with honey and is served along with a cup o refreshing milk.

Nettle, sorrel, goose-foot (bot.) and horse-tail (bot.) soups are made in the spring. They are prepared with smoked pork, or boiled in water with barley meal, groats or pressed oats. Boiled eggs and sour cream are added to the soup.

When the warm days commence, biguzis is made. Ripe rye bread is cut into small pieces or crumbled, then spring water is poured over the mass and sweetened with honey. Pressed cranberries, raspberries or red currants may be added during season. This food was called many names: nabaga cirtiens (the pauper’s stroke), nabagelis (pauper), or cuncu-runcu (which cannot be translated). Biguzis is set on a shelf for several hours in order for it to acquire its desired taste. Sometimes warm, sweetened linden, camomile, peppermint or caraway tea is poured over the bread.

When Jani (the summer solstice) has passed, the summer turns toward its sister-autumn. Latvia’s marshes and forests still offer a wealth berries, nuts and mushrooms.

© The Latvian Institute, 1999

08-22-02, 04:45 PM

Saldskabmaize (sweet-sour rye bread)

Ingredients: 4 kg finely ground rye flour, 2 litre water, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds, 4 slices rye bread or 50 gr yeast.
(The dough can be made with the whey of farm or regular cheese. Nowadays, sometimes a few teaspoons of sugar, lemon or orange rinds are added to the dough).

Start the work in the evening. Sift the flour, pour half of it into the dough trough and add boiling water. Mix thoroughly. When the dough has cooled to lukewarm, add crumbled rye bread or mix in soaked, mashed slices of rye bread. Mix the dough well, sprinkle it with flour, cover the trough and leave it in a warm place to turn sour. The next morning beat the dough thoroughly with a wooden stirrer, add caraway seeds and add 1/3 of the remaining flour. When the dough has completely risen, knead in the remaining flour. The dough is ready when it no longer stick to the hands. Sprinkle the dough with flour, cover it, leave it to rise. Heat the oven. When the oven is heated and the dough has risen, its surface cracked, form the loaves. In comparison to rye bread you should make smaller, longer, narrower, loaves. Smooth the surface, smear it with beer, whey, or water. The bread bakes for approximately one hour. Take the baked loaves out and smear them with water, in your palm, then cover them with a clean cloth.

Janu siers (Smooth solstice cheese)

Ingredients: 1 kg farm cheese, 5 litre milk, 1000 gr butter, 3 eggs, salt, caraway seeds.

Heat milk to boil, add crumbled farm cheese and heat until the mixture congeals into a cheesy mass and the whey separates. Pour the cheese mass into a double-layered piece of cheesecloth that has been soaked in cold water, and agitating the cloth, drain off the whey. Put into a pot: butter, drained cheese mass, stir in beaten eggs and salt, and stirring on a low flame, heat. The longer the cheese is stirred, the smother, harder, and shinier it gets. The cheese is poured into a moist cheesecloth which is then tied tightly to create a round. Place a board and something heavy on top to create a weight. Take out cooled cheese, dry. You can rub it with salt. To preserve longer, rub the cheese with melted butter.

Sklandu rauši (buns)

Ingredients: 2 glasses roughly ground rye flour, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1/2 glass water, salt.
Filling: 1 glass boiled, mashed potatoes, 1 tablespoon butter or thick cream, 1 egg yolk, salt, caraway seeds. 1 glass boiled, grated carrots, 1 tablespoon butter or cream, 1 egg.
Prepare a firm dough from flour, butter, salt, and water, roll it to a 5 mm thickness, cut out round patties with a diameter of about 10-20 cm. Place the patties on a greased pan, turn up their edges (1 cm high), press the edge in a wavy pattern.
For the filling: add melted butter or cream, 1 egg yolk, salt, and caraway seeds to the potato mass. Mix the carrots with butter or cream, an egg, or, if the buns are meant to be sweet, add sugar or honey, a bit of flour, and nix well.
Put a layer of the potato mass onto the dough patty, and then top it with the carrot mass. Bake until the dough is dry and the surface of the buns is bright orange.

Karaša (unrefined wheat flour patties)

Ingredients: 1,5 kg unrefined wheat flour, 1 litre milk, buttermilk, or water, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 glass boiled, mashed potatoes, 50 gr yeast, 100 gr sour cream or lard.

Mix yeast with 1 teaspoon sugar, leave it in a warm spot to rise. Heat milk to 300 degrees Celsius. Stir into the war milk half of the flour, add salt, leavened yeast, beat dough well, sprinkle with flour and cover trough (or bowl) with clean cloth, and place in a warm spot. Add remaining flour and cream or melted lard to the risen dough. Knead the dough well so that it rebounds from the edges, hands or stirrer. Sprinkle dough with flour, cover, leave to rise. After the dough has risen, press it down and let it rise again. Make medium sized round dough patties. Smooth their surface with a wet hand or smear with melted butter or a beaten egg. Place the patties on a greased pan or bread peel sprinkled with flour, place in heated oven and bake. The same type of patties are made with barely- meal and usually covered with a farm cheese-caraway spread.

Zirnu pikas (pea balls)

Ingredients: 1 kg peas, 300 gr potatoes, 300 gr smoked bacon, 2 onions, 200 gr poppy butter.

Soak the peas (half a day and boil them until they're soft. Drain them and then mill them through a meatgrinding machine. Mash boiled potatoes. Dice bacon and onions finely, then fry. Mix peas, potatoes, onions, bacon, and poppy butter, check for saltiness, then form small, round balls, place in a clay bowl. Serve with curdled milk. You can prepare the balls without potatoes and poppies.

Skabputra (sour porridge)

Ingredients: 1 litre water, 2 tablespoons barely groats, 1 glass curdled milk, 2 tablespoons sour cream.

Rinse barely groats and add to boiling water, boil to semi-softness. Add curdled milk to porridge and stop boiling. Add sour cream to cooled porridge. If you want sour porridge, keep it in room temperature for 1-2 days and then serve with sour cream and add milk. Porridge can be made with buttermilk, or you can add to the porridge curdled milk that has been beaten to a homogenous consistency. Skabputra should be served well cooled.

© The Latvian Institute, 1999

08-22-02, 05:42 PM
what the...! no blood sausage??

nicely done

however i feel we are skirting around the real issues!

tonight you need to get your ass to bingo.......with a camera
snap the "electrifying performances by sensual exotic dancers"

then i think we can all agree that you have presented a well rounded, all-encompassing view of latvia!

thanks in advance


08-22-02, 05:49 PM
Ancient Latvian Calendar (

first- I have no digital camera- only analog, and the scanner is at my friends house.

second- going to bingo is a bad idea- it's a place where people in suits with limos, beautiful chicks and their bodyguards (I have seen them smtimes - bodyguards) hang out - I won't fit in there

third- I cant afford it

fourth- I'll probably be thrown on street if security guards see me taking pictures around.
the public there is not that would like to get on to pictures

08-22-02, 06:14 PM
As the world enters a new millennium, the country of Latvia is entering one of the most promising periods of its history. In the year 2001, Latvia looked back on 10 years of renewed independence and forward to an increasingly prominent role in the new Europe that is emerging in the 21st century.

Latvia today is renewing the old, creating the new and re-asserting a distinctive national presence on the European scene. The rest of the world is beginning to rediscover Latvia as well. It is discovering a country that has been a sovereign state since 1918, but a national state of mind for centuries. A country that survived two world wars and 50 years behind the Iron Curtain, even more committed to the principles of freedom, democracy and international co-operation. A country with a language, culture and attitude totally unique to its region – yet a national identity woven through with diverse historical influences. Latvia is a Baltic country, a Baltic Sea country, a European country. It is poised to be a NATO and EU country. And ready to take its place in the global community.

Latvia is a country of 2.3 million people who are discovering what it means to live, work and play in an environment they can shape themselves. It is a place where schoolchildren and college students - the emerging generation of national, economic, social and cultural leaders - have a reason to be optimistic about their future. A future where Latvia is free to find its own place in the increasingly interconnected global community of the 21st century.

A tradition of democracy

The Republic of Latvia was established as a parliamentary democracy in 1918, and elected four Saeimas (parliaments) before the onset of World War II. It was a member of the League of Nations and enjoyed an economy and standard of living comparable at that time to Finland and Denmark.

The Soviet Union occupied Latvia in 1940 and illegally annexed it to the USSR, where it remained, a Captive Nation and de facto Soviet Republic for 50 years. In 1990, while still under Soviet rule, the people of Latvia elected a majority of pro-independence deputies to what was then the Soviet parliamentary body, the Supreme Council of Latvia. On May 4, 1990 the Supreme Council voted to restore full independence following a transition period. The Soviet government in Moscow refused to recognise this declaration, and in 1991 on several occasions attempted to use force to overthrow the elected parliament and government and re-establish a pro-Moscow regime. Utilising massive peaceful demonstrations and passive resistance, the people of Latvia thwarted Moscow’s attempts.

On March 3, 1991, 87 percent of all residents of Latvia participated in a referendum on independence, and 73 percent voted in the affirmative. Since ethnic Latvians represented just 53% of the total population at the time, this high favourable vote indicated that at least 33 percent of non-Latvians had voted with a majority of Latvians to restore independence.

On August 21, 1991, following the collapse of Soviet Union, the Latvian Supreme Council adopted a resolution for the full restoration of Latvian independence. In late 1992 the Supreme Council proclaimed elections to the first post-independence Latvian parliament, which were held on June 5- 6, 1993. The elections led to the convening of the 5th Saeima, continuing a link with the parliamentary bodies of pre-war Latvia. The 5th Saeima elected Guntis Ulmanis President of the Republic of Latvia in 1994.

Subsequent parliamentary elections have been held in 1996 (6th Saeima) and 1999 (7th Saeima). President Guntis Ulmanis was re-elected to a second (and constitutionally last) term in 1996; Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga was elected President by the 7th Saeima in June 1999. While the original constitution set the term of office for the president and parliament at three years, this was changed to four years for both in 1999.

In Latvia’s parliamentary democracy, the President’s power is largely restricted to appointing a prime minister (who must be approved by the Saeima) and signing laws into power. The President can send legislation back to the Saeima for revision and amendment. Although both President Ulmanis and Vike-Feiberga have used this power, both have primarily used their offices to promote Latvia’s foreign policy objectives and have been active and influential in international diplomacy, particularly in promoting Latvia’s membership in NATO and the EU.

Following independence, Latvia’s yearning for democracy, free speech and free enterprise rapidly extended beyond politics. Most state-run newspapers were either privatised or closed, and new, independent daily, weekly and monthly publications proliferated. Public television (LTV1 and LTV2) and radio (4 channels) were supplemented by new, independent TV and radio stations in a highly competitive media market. Latvia today has several independent TV channels and nearly a dozen private radio stations broadcasting nationally in Latvian, Russian and English.

While the State educational system began a difficult period of reform and restructuring, over 30 private colleges, technical schools and secondary schools have been established since 1991, and the numbers continue to grow. The English literacy rate has reached 90%, as proficiency in other European languages also increased. While courses in business, management and information technology are attracting the largest number of new students, the arts and sciences remain extremely popular.

Civic participation in democracy-building has blossomed, especially after the UNDP, The Soros Foundation of Latvia and the government of Denmark helped establish an NGO centre in Riga in 1996. Of the over 6,000 NGO’s that have been registered in Latvia in the last ten years, more than 800 actively make use of the NGO Centre’s resources in Riga and are engaged in ongoing projects and programs. To promote NGO activities in smaller cities and rural areas throughout Latvia, the Riga centre is now supplemented by 13 regional NGO support centres.

While much still needs to be done to overcome a tragic Cold War legacy, the enthusiasm with which the people of Latvia have embraced democratic values and institutions is one of Latvia’s strongest assets in the 21st century.

A free market economy and a stable currency

Throughout its history, Latvia has always enjoyed the economic advantages of its strategic location on major trading routes between North and South, East and West. As Latvian governments moved quickly in the early 90s to restore a free market economy, encourage privatisation, stabilise the currency and diversify import and export flow, Latvia rapidly emerged as one of the economic success stories of post Cold War period.

When the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development chose Riga, Latvia as the site for its annual meeting in 2000, Latvia was widely viewed as an advanced transition country.

Latvia’s progress in price and trade liberalisation, small and large-scale privatisation and financial sector reform has resulted in an economy that has grown by an average of 3 percent yearly since 1994. Latvia’s national currency, the lat, was pegged informally to the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Right (SDR) in 1994, and has been one of the most stable currencies in the world since then.

Like many countries in the region, the Latvian economy suffered setbacks during the Russian economic crisis in 1998. This came on the heels of a banking crisis that had begun in 1995. Yet both of these shocks served as a catalyst for further change and reform.

Budget stringency and a gradual reorientation of exports to EU and other Western countries reduced Latvia’s trade dependency on Russia. Latvia’s rapid recovery enabled it to join the World Trade Organisation in 1999 - the first Baltic country to do so. Further reforms, foreign experience and the growth of other branches of the economy, spurred the recovery and development of the Latvian banking system.

A new phase in Latvia’s economic transition was marked by an invitation to begin EU accession talks at the Helsinki EU Summit in December 1999. In developing a finance and banking system that corresponds to EU requirements, Latvia established a Finance and Capital Markets Commission in 2001 to monitor brokerages, insurers, credit institutions, investment funds, and private pension funds.

As a result, the current financial system of Latvia corresponds to the requirements of a modern and developed EU economy, providing all the necessary financial instruments to operate in a global economy. Confidence in Latvia’s economy has attracted foreign banks, representing 60% of Latvia’s bank capital. The largest investors come from Nordic States, expanding Latvia’s role as an emerging new financial centre in the Baltic Sea region.

With its prime location as a transit hub for east-west trade, Latvia has attracted considerable foreign investment. Three ports and corridors of motor transport with high cargo throughput serve strategic important directions, linking Central, Western and Northern Europe, Russia and CIS countries. With a specialised, high capacity railway corridor, and oil, oil products and natural gas pipelines, Latvia joins Russian energy sources and markets with Western customers.

The Scandinavian and Baltic countries are important trade partners of Latvia, together constituting 30% of the total Latvia’s trade volume. The strengthening of the Latvian market economy and integration with the region has made important arrangements in foreign trade flows. EU share of foreign trade is 61% for export, 53% for import.

One of the fastest growing sectors of the Latvian economy, however, has been in Information Technologies. Latvia’s innovative, integrated Information Systems cluster strategy has spurred growth in software development, IT consultation, hardware development and data transmissions solutions.

Latvia’s GDP grew by 7.6 percent in 2001, which was more than any other EU candidate country. Inflation was under 3% for three years running. Unemployment in 2001 reached 7.7% . Growth was broad-based and driven by domestic demand, particularly investment. The structure of value- added has evolved, reducing agriculture’s share of the economy from 10% to 4%, while the service sector has grown from 56% to about 71%.

As it moves into the 21st century, Latvia is clearly on a path to convergence with the EU.

A foreign policy that looks West and East, North and South

When Latvia joined the United Nations in 1991, it came as a country that recognised that its return to a global community carried with it new global responsibilities and challenges. It was an historic opportunity to close one chapter in world history, and open a new one based on international engagement, co-operation and common values.

Latvia’s foreign policy priorities were clear from the outset and have remained constant during its first decade of restored independence. They include co-operation with strategic partners and countries in the Baltic Sea region, integration into a unified Europe and transatlantic security structures, and active engagement in international organisations.

Developed in accordance with priorities that are defined in the foreign policy concept adopted by the Latvian parliament, Latvia’s foreign policy, like its economic policy, has been one of the success stories of the post-Cold War era.

Since 1991, three parliaments and nine governments have shaped Latvia’s foreign policy to achieve two concrete goals - membership in NATO and the European Union. Simultaneously Latvia has sought to establish a constructive and co-operative relationship with its neighbour, Russia. Historically, Latvia has always had close cultural, economic and political ties with Western Europe and the Nordic States. In rebuilding an independent Latvian state, these EU and NATO countries have become Latvia’s closest political and economic partners. Special ties were also established with the United States, which had never recognised the legitimacy of Soviet rule in Latvia following World War II. Latvia’s diplomatic mission in the U.S., first established in 1922, continued to operate throughout 50 years of Soviet occupation, and became one of Latvia’s first embassies following the restoration of independence in 1991.

The Soviet occupation had also left a legacy in Latvia which required special attention in Latvian- Russian relations. One of Latvia’s first major foreign policy achievements was the successful negotiation to remove Russian (formerly Soviet) troops from Latvian soil in 1994. Latvia’s integration into Europe included membership in the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Regionally, Latvia became an active member of the Council of Baltic Sea States, and formed special ties with Lithuania and Estonia through the Baltic Council of Ministers and the parliamentary Baltic Assembly. In 1998, Latvia joined Estonia and Lithuania in signing the US Baltic Charter with the United States.

Latvia’s commitment to global co-operation meant membership in the World Trade Organisation, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Health Organisation, as well as many other international bodies.

Latvia was among the first countries to step up to the threshold when both the EU and NATO opened their doors to new members. In 1999, Latvia was named an aspirant country at the April NATO Summit in Washington and invited to begin EU accession talks at the December EU Summit in Helsinki. In the first half of 2001, Latvia signalled its diplomatic maturity by assuming the presidency of the Council of Europe, during which time Armenia and Azerbaijan joined the Council.

By the year 2001, Latvia had established over 35 diplomatic missions around the world, including embassies in most of the EU countries as well as China and Israel. As the world enters a new millennium, Latvia continues to expand its ties with the global community, looking North and South, East and West, committed to protecting its national interests through the strengthening of democracy, stability and co-operation the world over.

Strengthening a transatlantic security system

When Latvia restored its independence in 1991, many viewed this as the beginning of Latvia’s return to Europe. Latvia, however, has been an integral part of European political, economic and cultural structures for eight centuries. With the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War, Europe is returning to Latvia. For Latvia, membership in the European Union and NATO are not ends in themselves, but simply means to accomplish a greater goal – participation in a united Europe, whole and free.

Latvia has sought membership in NATO in order to make its contribution to the formation of European security policy. In the development of Latvia’s security policies, Latvian governments have focused on regional co-operation and European integration, while building a special relationship with the United States in order to strengthen the transatlantic aspect of its security policy.

For Latvia, membership in NATO means commitment to the basic principles of the North Atlantic Treaty, democracy, rule of law, political and economic stability as well as the development of the Latvian National Armed Forces according to NATO standards, optimising expenditures and resources. In 1991 Latvia participated in the inaugural meeting of the Northern Atlantic Co- operation Council (NACC), now the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). In 1994 Latvia signed the Partnership for Peace framework document and became an active PFP participant. In 1999, during the NATO summit in Washington, Latvia was named as a NATO aspirant country and became fully engaged in the Membership Action Plan (MAP) process.

Latvia has understood that contributing to the security of Europe means more than military preparedness and interoperability. In keeping with other NATO members, Latvia has re- established democratic institutions, placed the Ministry of Defence under civilian control and developed a fully transparent defence budget. This budget has steadily increased to 1.75% of GDP in 2002 and will reach 2% in 2003.

Since Latvia did not have a national defence force during the Soviet occupation, Latvia’s national defence system was built practically from scratch. The LNAF were established in 1991, and tailored to meet Latvia’s security needs and NATO standards.

Latvia’s force structure plans were revised substantially in 2001 in order to ensure that future plans are realistic and affordable. NATO and its allies have accepted the new force structures. These plans aim at improving self-defence capabilities, interoperability with allied forces (reflecting the strategic goal of NATO membership), as well as those from neighbouring Estonia and Lithuania, of forces for peace support operations and, in the future, sharing the risks and burdens of article 5 operations. As a result, Latvian Land Forces have been active in NATO peace support operations and a key part of BALTBAT, the Baltic Battalion has served in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Latvian Navy has contributed to the development of the Baltic Squadron, with special emphasis on minesweeping, sea surveillance and coastal defence. The key objective of the Latvian Air Force is to develop air defence as well as air surveillance capabilities within the scope of BALTNET, and is already contributing to search-and-rescue missions in the Baltic Sea region.

Even prior to NATO membership, Latvian forces have worked collectively with NATO forces to preserve peace, prevent war and enhance the security and stability of the transatlantic community. Latvian troops and specialised personnel have participated in all NATO-led operations in the Balkans, as well as other endeavours by the OSCE and WEU.

Through MAP, PFP and peace support operations in the Balkans, Latvia’s armed forces have already established themselves as ready and reliable partners and allies throughout Europe. Latvia has contributed to stability and co-operation within region, by involvement in various initiatives, which include all countries around Baltic Sea, including Russia. Simultaneously, Latvia’s military has built confidence and support within Latvia. The Ministry of Defence, in co-operation with such non- governmental organisations as the Latvian Transatlantic Organisation (LATO) and the Latvian Transatlantic Youth Club (LTJK) has launched broad information dissemination and educational programs within Latvia. Members of the military have assisted local governments during disasters such as forest fires and floods.

Latvia realises that no single country can be self-sufficient in ensuring its security. The 21st century has brought with it new threats to European, transatlantic and global security. Whether it is international terrorism or regional conflicts, Latvia is ready to do its share to promote stability and security.

The goal of an integrated society

The forefathers of the Latvian people first arrived in the Baltic region in the first half of 2000 B.C. In the 900s A.D. the ancient Balts began to establish specific tribal realms. The territory of modern Latvia was inhabited by four major tribal cultures – the Couronians, Latgallians, Selonians and Semigallians. In the 13th century Latvia was invaded by armed Germanic Crusaders, who founded Riga and established control over the indigenous people and territory. Over ensuing centuries, traders and invaders from Germany, Poland, Sweden and Russia established a presence in Latvia, alongside the local Latvian inhabitants.

In the late 19th century Latvia was politically ruled by Russia and economically controlled by Baltic Germans, yet the majority of Latvia’s inhabitants – farmers, workers and fishermen – were ethnic Latvians, and descendants of the original Baltic tribes. The Latvian people finally established a Latvian state in 1918 with citizenship for all the residents, regardless of ethnicity. Between 1918 and 1939, ethnic Latvians comprised about 75% of the population; Russians, Jews, Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, Estonians and other minorities represented the remainder of the population.

During World War II Latvia suffered three invasions and occupations. One hundred and twenty thousand Latvians were deported to Soviet concentration camps in Siberia, one hundred forty thousand fled to the West, and tens of thousands more disappeared or perished in the conflict. As a result of Hitler’s policies, the majority of Baltic Germans were resettled in Germany and ninety percent of the Jewish population was brutally annihilated during the Holocaust. Nearly one third of the ethnic Latvian population had been killed, deported or relocated. Latvia’s prosperous society had been decimated. The greatest toll was among the wealthy and educated – those who had shaped Latvia’s social, economic and intellectual life following WWI. During Soviet rule between 1944 and 1991, hundreds of thousands of Soviets were brought into Latvia, reducing the indigenous ethnic Latvian population to nearly 50%.

With the restoration of Latvian independence in 1991, Latvia also re-established its original citizenship laws and policies. This enabled all former (pre-1940) citizens and their descendants to restore their citizenship, regardless of ethnicity. At that time, nearly 700,000 Soviet citizens resided in independent Latvia. When the Soviet Union ceased to exist in October 1991, they became stateless.

A new law on citizenship was passed in 1994, making nearly all of the permanent residents of Latvia eligible for naturalisation. By 2002 over 50,000 eligible people had applied for and received Latvian citizenship.

According to the Declaration on the Renewal of Independence of Latvia in 1990,
"Citizens of the Republic of Latvia and citizens of other countries with permanent residence in the territories of Latvia are guaranteed the enjoyment of social, economic, and cultural rights, as well as political freedoms, in accordance with generally recognised norms of human rights. This clause applies fully to those citizens of the Soviet Union that express their interest to live in Latvia while not obtaining Latvian citizenship."

Since 1991 Latvia has established State-funded minority schools serving 8 ethnic groups: Russian, Polish, Jewish, Ukrainian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Belarussian and Roma. These schools also serve as cultural centres. In 1991 the Latvian Government began to implement a bilingual education program, designed to provide ethnic minorities with an opportunity to learn Latvian, as well as their native tongues.

In 2001 the 7th Saeima passed a law on Social Integration, designed in part, to encourage and promote the acquisition of Latvian citizenship among the non-citizen population. The program is intended to promote dialogue on integration issues, foster Latvian language training and increase understanding of Latvian culture and heritage among the minorities on the one hand, while promoting the understanding of the cultural heritage of minorities among Latvians, on the other. The aim of integration is to have a consolidated civic society with common values.

There are nearly 1.4 million native speakers of Latvian in Latvia, and 140,00 abroad. As one of 250 major languages in world (spoken by more than a million people), the Latvian language is also one of the oldest. It was established as a State language in order to preserve this unique cultural heritage. Nevertheless, English and Russian are widely spoken throughout Latvia, and the knowledge of other languages is rapidly increasing, enabling Latvia to retain its special national identity, while moving toward fuller integration with Europe and the globalised world at large.

An ancient culture in a dynamic European setting

The contemporary Latvian poet Imants Ziedonis has described culture as something "which is, lives, wants to live and flourish". In Latvia, this spiritual desire to live and flourish developed a distinctive national identity over a period of 3,000 years.

Like other cultures, Latvians developed traditions, customs, decorative designs and a world view that were uniquely their own, closely tied to the Northern European land and nature that they depended on for survival. Ironically, the period when the Latvian language and culture began to coalesce, was also the period when it faced its greatest threat, for the 13th century marked the beginning of a series of foreign incursions, invasions and occupations. German, Swedish and Polish warriors and traders brought European culture to Latvia, at times threatening the existence of the Latvian culture, at times strengthening it through adversity, and eventually co-existing along side it.

Latvian culture was both preserved and manifested in folklore that displayed the collective wisdom and beliefs of the Latvians’ ancient tribal ancestors. A uniquely Latvian cultural phenomenon, folk songs, or dainas, date back well over a thousand years. Rich with tradition, literature and symbolism, the dainas serve as an oral record of Latvian culture. Their subjects encompass the entire course of human life, from childbirth, youth, marriage and work, to old age and death. By the 19th century, more than 1.2 million texts and 30,000 melodies were identified. In the 21st century, these songs continue to live as an essential part of Latvian contemporary holiday celebrations and social life.

This powerful tradition of song played a central role in Latvia’s National Awakening in the second half of the 19th century and led to the first Latvian Song Festival in 1873. The Song Festival, involving massed choirs of tens of thousands of participants was a central focus of national identity during Latvia’s years of independence from 1918 until 1940, survived through the Soviet occupation, and spearheaded Latvia’s "singing revolution" in the late 1980s.

Latvian traditions still play a central role in the Latvian identity today. This uniquely "Latvian" culture is woven through its literature, music, theatre and the visual arts. Yet, the legacy of foreign rule has also given Latvia a second, European culture. As a distinctive Latvian identity emerged during the National Awakening in the 19th century, so did an appreciation for the achievements of other cultures. Latvians enthusiastically embraced all the classical arts – literature, painting, theatre, symphonic music, architecture, opera, ballet and film. Latvia’s National Opera – the "White House" of Riga - was one of the first buildings to be renovated after the restoration of independence in 1991 and is the centrepiece of a flourishing cultural life.

Latvia’s home-grown, world class opera singers, such as Inese Galante, Sonora Vaice, Egils Silins and Elina Garance, today perform in opera houses throughout Europe. Peteris Vasks is considered one of the finest contemporary composers in the world, while Riga-born violinist Gidons Kremers and his Kremerata Baltica chamber orchestra won a Grammy in 2002. Violinist Baiba Skride took First Prize in the Queen Elizabeth International Music Competition in Brussels in 2001 and is considered one of the most outstanding young violinists in all of Europe.

The rapid renovation of Riga’s centre has revealed hundreds of examples of distinctive Jugendstil architecture, leading some to assert that Riga may be the Jugendstil capital of Europe. Interestingly enough, over 60% of the buildings displaying this very European Art Nouveau style of the turn-of- the-century, were designed by Latvian architects. In the 1920s and 1930s Latvian painters, known as the “Riga group” also established an international following.

A hundred years ago Riga was known as the “Paris of the North”. As it enters the 21st century, Riga has blossomed as a creative centre for the arts once again. Local and visiting art exhibits and the opera, theatre and ballet, compete with night clubs and discos that rock with jazz, blues and the latest electronic fusions of hip hop and dance music. After ten years of independence, Riga is now called “The Second City that Never Sleeps”, and “The Hottest City in the North”.

The vibrancy of cultural life in Latvia is a product of talented artists, performers and writers that honed and developed their skills in cities and regions throughout Latvia. Many continue to live and work in their home towns or rural settings, blending the influences of traditional roots with the modern, cosmopolitan influences of the nation’s capital. This spiritual desire to live and flourish as Latvians, as Europeans, and as the shapers of the 21st century, is a phenomenon that continues to shape Latvia’s multi-faceted, dynamic culture.

© Text: Ojars Kalnins

08-22-02, 06:38 PM
Originally posted by Avatar
Ancient Latvian Calendar (

first- I have no digital camera- only analog, and the scanner is at my friends house.

second- going to bingo is a bad idea- it's a place where people in suits with limos, beautiful chicks and their bodyguards (I have seen them smtimes - bodyguards) hang out - I won't fit in there

third- I cant afford it

fourth- I'll probably be thrown on street if security guards see me taking pictures around.
the public there is not that would like to get on to pictures

c'mon kiddo
just jokin around!

08-22-02, 07:49 PM
The food posts were GREAT, Avatar :)

In fact i had to go and take a snack break because of how much it stirred the apetite.

The peaballs sound GREAT. As does all of the traditional foods, really. They all seem very hearty, tasty... you know.

Oh yeah. You didn't mention any meat that much, save for the cows at calving and the pig ear or tail. Did you just overlook the meats or is meat a rarity in the average home or what?

08-22-02, 08:07 PM
In fact i had to go and take a snack break because of how much it stirred the apetite.
You know what? - me too:D
Luckly I had some Janu siers in the fridge:p

Oh yeah. You didn't mention any meat that much, save for the cows at calving and the pig ear or tail. Did you just overlook the meats or is meat a rarity in the average home or what?

actually we have not much unique traditional meat foods
they are practically called the same, but they taste a lot different than in other countries. Different ways making them. The same sausages. A lot of food is still being made as it was centuries ago and because of that it's more natural and tasty.

as fore the traditional/unique - then it's really more non-meat- yes , true

the meat foods what we've got are mostly well known to other nordic and eastern countries/cultures, but it's simply not being made as it was there

08-22-02, 08:15 PM
Oh, okay.

You had Solstice cheese left over from the celebration? Or is it a food made all during the summer? Tell ya what sounds realllllly good, them birch drinks. The birch juice, birch beer..champagne. Yum :cool:

08-22-02, 08:21 PM
I haven't really tried birch champagne, but juice is tasty

that cheese can be bought in springs, summers, atumns- it's very often used in home and beer parties.
Latvians are used to have that cheese as a beer snack

08-22-02, 08:43 PM
Hm. In America, cheese is more of a pot snack :D

Once again, thanks for all the great information regarding your country Avatar, is seems wonderful.

08-22-02, 08:49 PM
History of Latvia


The first human settlements in Latvia date back to the time just after the last glacier period, approximately 10,000 BC, but archaeologists have found traces of even older human culture. Nomadic tribes came into these territiries after the last glacier period, during the great migration from the Southwest. This culture had its origin from the mid-stone age human settlements in Ahrensburg in the region of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany. This early European culture was the leading until approximately 3000 BC, when other nations from the East are the ancestors of Finns, Estonians and Livs (a very small nation living in the northwestern part of Latvia, now an ethnic minoruty).
In approximately 2000 BC, Baltic tribes came into Latvia, and are regarded as the ancestors of present day Latvians and Lithuanians. These tribes, coming from the South, assimilated to the nations already living on Latvian territory. The Baltic tribes first appear in written records of the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus, in approximately 100 BC. He reffered to these nations as farmers living on the coasts of the amber sea. During this period, the inhabitants split up into several tribes (this process had happened earlier with Germans). Since then we differentiate the Baltic tribes into Latgalian, Zemgalian, Kurzemian on Latvian territory and prussian and Lithuanian in the territories further to the south. In Viking times, west of the Riga bay, lived the Kurshi, who were well known in the Baltic Sea region. They traded with neighboring Scandinavian nations, but the trade was frequently attacked and robbed on both sides. Since the main trade road from the Scandinavian region to Byzantium went through Kurzeme, a rich trade culture developed. An important exported product was amber jewelry, which is found in large quantites on the coasts of the Baltic Sea. Great changes in the Baltic history accurred during the 13th century, when Christianity was introduced to the Baltics. The Pope initiated a crusade to the Baltics, whcich was considered to be equal before God as the crusade to Jerusalem.
Soon after the first crusade had started, in became apparent that economic motivations were far more important than the missionary duties. they immediately tried to politically subjugate local inhabitants. The crusades ended in a war which lasted for almost 100 years. After the victory of the Germanic order, the subjugated land was given the name "Livonia". Alongside the state of the Germanic order, small medieval town-states formed, usually headed by a bishop. Conflicts between the Germanic order and the economically autonomous town-states accurred for centuries. the founding of cities like Riga, Cesis, Ventspils and Kuldiga became important in the context of European trade, and joined the Hansa league in the 15th century. In historical documents, these towns appear under their old german names. the ruling classes from the very beginning were Germans; the middle class, mainly artisans and farmers, were Latvians. This ethnic border remained unchanged, and a Baltic person, disregarding his social status, was unable to become a German. however, in the territory of Prussia, where farmers had the possibility of becoming Germans. This is why the Baltic nations, contrary to the Prussian population, did not lose their ethnic identity. The price paid for the preservation of national identity was high: The German inhabitants, during the 15th anf 16th centuries, managed to raise themselves to the status of feudal lords and the local inhabitants became their serfs. Due to this situation and the constant fights between the order state and the independent trade towns, reformation was widely acclaimed in Latvia.
In 1554, The Master of the Order, Walter von Plettenberg, fearing larger uprisings, declared Protestantism the state religion, which weakend the defense capabilities of the medieval order state and allowed the Russians to loot vast territories of Latvia. To prevent Russian rule, local aristocrats, except in Kurzeme and Riga gave up their power to the Lithuanian-Polish state in 1561, for reasons of military protection. the remains of the Protestant state were secularized, and Catholicism was proclaimed the state religion. Due to this division of the Latvian territory, the Kurzeme duchy was formed on the west side of the Daugava River, and existed from 1561 to 1795. The remainder of Latvia came, as already mentioned, under Lithuanian-Polish rule. The privileges of the German lords were preserved on both banks of the Daugava, and the Latvian serfs became even more dependent on their lords. the 17th century brought new changes with the "Dominium maris Baltici", and the fight between Poland and Sweden for the rule of the Baltics. The war mainly took place in the territory of present day Latvia. As a result of the Swedish-Polish war, the northern part of the country (Vidzeme or Livland) and Riga passed unto Sweden rule.
In 1621, the Swedish king Gustav Adolf II marched into Riga, and this day is referred to as the beginning of the so called "good Swedish times". The Swedish rule continued until the 18th century abd brought essential political and cultural changes. Due to liberal Swedish law, the rights of the German feudal lords were limited. the farmers of Vidzeme had the right to lodge their complaints directly to the Swedish king as the farmers' stratum in Sweden had their representation in the Swedish parliament, and thus the despotism of the aristocrats was restricted. during this time, schools for peasants were established in the contryside, the first books in Latvian were printed and the first translation of the Bible into the Latvian language was done. the entrepreneurial spirit was also awakening in Kurzeme during this time. the remaining privileges of the aristocracy still allowed for cheap production and caused rapid economic improvements. the times when Duke Jacob (1642-1682) ruled were the times of prosperity for Kurzeme. During this period, several branches of industry developed, mainly ship-building and metallurgy. Duke Jacob even succeeded in creating colonies overseas - the island of Tobago near the shores of Latin America and a part of present-day Gambia. Latgale (Imfflantia) was kept under Polish rule, and during the 17th century the German aristocracy was assimilated by Poles. In contrast to Kurzeme and Vidzeme, where Protestantism rooted, in Latgale, both cultural and political Catholicism gained an importance that has lasted to the present day.
The 18th century brought another great war. In 1700, the army of Czarist Russia confronted sweden for the sole purpose of conquering the ice-free harbors of the Baltic sea. the Nordic War brought the greatest sufferings to the native Latvian population and lasted for 21 years. The devastating effects of these wars can still be seen in many castle ruins around Latvia. During the war, various plague epidemics diminished the population of Latvia, and several regions became unpopulated. as a result of this war, in 1710 the Northern provinces of the country - Vidzeme and Riga, came under Russian rule. This was profitable mainly to the local Baltic German aristocrats because the privileges they lost under Swedish rule were restores by the Russian Czar.
The was still little difference between the rights of a Latvian farmer and Roman slave. This miserable state of Latvian farmers brought a wave of indignation among the German Enlighteners. Johann Gottfried Herder, who worked for several years as a teacher at the Dome school, sharply criticized the human rights violations. G.Merkel, in his book "Latvians, in Livonia, at the end of the age of Enlightenment", pointed out that a nation is doomed to extinction if it has to live in the outdated political system of feudalism. As a result of the second division of Poland in 1772, Latgale was joined to the Czarist Russia, and in 1795, as a result of third division of Poland, Kurzeme suffered the same fate. After the third division of Poland, Czarist Russia had rule over almost all fo the baltic states, including estonia and part of Lithuania. The German aristocrats didn't try to hinder the new Czarist power because, as it was mentioned above, the incorporation of Latvia into Russia gave certain guarantees that they wouldn't lose their privileges.
The population of Latvia in the 18th century was neither politicallynor culturally able to express its own identity, because every utterance in this direction was suppressed
by the feudalistic regime. This is why the formation of the Latvian nation didn't start until the beginning of the 19th century when, for the first time, Latvians had the possibility to enter the Baltic university in Dorpat (Tartu), Estonia. The educational language was German. The most famous graduates of this university, contributing greatly to the formation of national self-awareness, were Krishjanis Valdemars, Juris Alunans, and Atis Kronvalds. The intellectuals wanted to be equal with the Germans in political as well as cultural respects. In the civic society. especially in towns, the wish to live in a free, independent state and not in a country ruled by foreigners, was voiced more and more often. Th national self-awareness that started to form in the mid-19th century and the rapid spread of the ideas of the social democrats (whose Latvian Social Democratic Labor Party was founded in 1904) caused a nacional uprising in 1 905. This revolution had the character of a general liberation movement. It was an attempt to get rid of both Russians rule and the German aristocrats, but it was brutally oppressed by the Russian army.
The was not the last attempt of the Latvians to gain independence. Not until the end of World War I, the collapse of Czarist empire, and the fall of the Second German Reich, was it possible to lay the foundation for a latvian state. On the 18th of November, 1918, the Democratic Block, a coalition of latvian parties, decided to form the latvian National Council, which declared the independence of latvia within its historical borders. After the declaration of independence, the fight ag ainst Bolshevist troops, as well as against German and Russian monarchists, lasted for two years. After the liberation war, in April 1920, the first liberal elections took place. The passing of the Constitution (Satversme) in 1922, (and the forming of the Constituent Assembly) was the foundation for a free democratic and parliamentary state we encounter at present. in 1921 Latvia became a member of the league of nation. Dur ing the period between the two World wars, latvia achived certain economic success, especially in agriculture, thnks to the land reforms carried out by the state, and the property rights reforms namely, privatization.
It is also interesting to note that none of the countries involved in World war I paid any reparation to war-ravaged latvia. During this period of independence, cultural changes were obvious: at the beginning of the 1930's, 0.3 percen t of the Latvian inhabitants were studying at Universities, which was the highest number in Europe at the time. This period also saw the appearance of numerous new literary works, and the living standard was comparable to therest of Europe. Although latvia made great efforts in the fields of culture and economy, its political situation was not very stable. The cause of the instability was numerous small parties represented in the parliament, which didn't facilitate continuous political work. In addition, Latvia could not escape the influence of the world economic depression. on the background of the overall economic depression, the dissatisfaction of the population grew. Taking advantage of the circumstances, the prime minister of the time, Karlis Ulmanis, dissolved the parliament. This was the beginning of a totalitarian regime in Latvia, headed by Karlis Ulmanis. This regime differed from the fascist regimes of the time and gained wide support from the people. Ulmanis was very popular among the farmers and the army, and gathered all the nationally oriented forces. The Ulmanis regime did not carry out any "ethnic cleansing" as the fascist regimes of Germany and Italy did. Ulmanis is even now highly esteemed by many people in Latvia as an outstanding head of the state. Latvia chose a neutral line in its foreign policies, trying to exist between the superpowers. The plan of forming a military and economic union together with Estonia and Lithuania failed. The protocols of the Hitler-Stalin pact, signed in 1939, determined Latvia to be a sphere of interest of the Soviet Union.
A month after the protocols were signed, the Soviet Union forces Latvia to give up its political neutrality, threatening to use military force. The Soviets demanded permission to place its armed forces in the territory of Latvia - in Liepaja and Ventspils. The ultimatum. though, was not the end of the sovereignty of the Latvia state yet. On July 16, 1940, another ultimatum of the Soviet Union demanded the permission of the Latvian goverment to allow further stationing of the Soviet troops in Latvia. A new goverment, loyal to Moscow, was formed. The reaction of the international community to Latvian people's rights violation was minimal, which is why Ulmanis, knowing the military superiority of the Soviet Union, and trying to avoid bloodshed, accepted the ultimatum. He ordered the army, ready to fight, to halt military actions. On June 17, 1940, Soviet Army troops accupied Latvia. The Soviet Union formed a puppet goverment in Latvia, which instantly declared Latvia a Soviet Republic. the annexation scenario of all three Baltic states was the same. Immediately after the occupation, the Stalin regime started the holocaust - during the first year of the occupation 35.000 people were murdered and thousands were deported to the northern regions of the Soviet Union. It is not surprising that this year has been given the name of "the horrible year". These mass murders and deportations easily explain why the German army was greeted with joy. the nation hoped to remove the Soviet terror and to reestablish their independent state. But latvia remained occupied and was part of the region, called "Ostland" in Nazi slang. The majority of Latvian Jews were killed in the Salaspils concentration camp or shot in the forest of Rumbula. The Nazi terror of ethnic extinction for the Latvian nation was not as horrid as the Soviet deportations, but nethertheless Worls War II was the most tragic page in the history of Latvia. The able men were recruited to fight in the German Army as well as in the Red Army. They were made to fight each other, instead of fighting together for the common cause of Latvia's future. Kurzeme was the region that suffered the most. During the last days of the war, the Latvian and the German armies were fighting against the Russian army in so called "kettle of Kurzeme". These fights went on until the total defeat of Germany, on May 8, 1945. More than 80 percent of Latvian intellectuals fled across Kurzeme to escape to the West. A guerrilla movement, called "the green resistance", continued until 1957 in the forests of Kurzeme. Dundaga was an important center of the resistance, which extended to many towns, and was widely supported by the people. There was also support from Western countries; for example, there were radio communications with Sweden. The hope that the Allied forces would liberate the occupied land was alive until late 60's. Though the end of World War II put an end to the violation of human rights, the situation in Latvia, in this respect, worsened. From 1945 to 1949 more than 100.000 people were deported from Latvia to Siberia. The exact number of the deported and the murdered has not yet been established, as the Stalinist archives even today are not fully accessible. Approximately 35 percent of the Latvian population perished in the war, were deported to Siberia, or fled Latvia into exile. Though the annexation of Latvia was never officially recognized by the international community, during the talks of the Allies and Soviet Union in Teheran (1944) and Jalta (1945) the issue was never touched upon.
In the mid 1950's, the beginning of Stalin's plans industrialization took place. Big Soviet style industrial enterprises were built in latvia. The ideology of "home soveticus" was implemented, and workers from other republics were sent to latvia. the historically formed cultures were doomed to extinction and a new uniform Soviet culture was envisaged. All possible repressions were common everyday occurrences. in 1940, Latvians made up 75 percent of the total population. Now the number was 52 percent, and as latvia was a front state to the West, a lot of the foreign population has been, in one way or another, connected with military aspects. The kruschev period brought the so called "period of thaw", and in the 1950's, many Latvians returned from Siberia to their fatherland. this was a time of revival for the Latvian culture. When attempts to gain more ondependence for the Latvian Socialist Republic became obvious, under the rule of Kruschev, a new wave of deportations followed in 1959.
Brezhnev's goverment continued building the totalitarian regime started by Kruschev, and this had a new typical feature: intensified activities of the KGB, the secret service of the Soviet Union. An all-embracing system of spying and persecution was created. For example, those who, attended church services on Christmas were recorded, and then persecuted, either at workplace ar at school, and called religious fanatics. regardless of this, churches were full, and if we try to imagine a small town where everyone knows everyone else, we can also imagine the social status of a KGB spy. A state of absolute control was created, but its authorities were hated by everyone - there was no way to escape or resist. During the Breshnev regime, the economy deteriorated, and finally, itbecame absolutely oblious that the planned economy was an inefficient system. During this period, the building of new, gigantic plants accelerated. more and more workers from other republics of the Soviet Union were sent to Latvia. one of the reasons behind this was the creation of interdependence of the Soviet republics. the industrial plants mainly processed raw materials imported from other Soviet republics, with the help of the imported work force. many culturally important places in Latvia were destroyed during this period. For example, the "Staburags" cliff, a place of mythological importance, was flooded when a dam for a hydroelectric station was built.
Disregarding all the decay, latvians still followed their cultural tradition, thus, the festival of Songs was still organized. Theater and literature became a forum for sarcastic public thought. When Gorbatchev's reforms began, it became easiler to express one's views, and the first anti-Soviet political organizations were formed. On August 23, 1987, the first demonstration in front of the Freedom Monument took place, and people voiced demands to annual the Stalin-Hitler pact. In its essence, this was a demand to restore the independence of the Latvian state. Two years later, on August 23, 1989 the world view on the issue of the Baltic states was strongly influenced by the formation of a live chain around the Baltic states, that reminded the world of the anniversary of Stalin-Hitler pact. In spring 1990, the first relatively free elections were organized, in which 2/3 of the population voted for the Popular Front, which demanded the independence of Latvia. Immediately after the elections, the independence of Latvia was declared. to preserve its power, the Soviet Union answered with military force. In January 1991, Soviet tanks moved in the direction of Riga, and barricades were built in the streets of Riga to stop them. These were the days where the Soviet army shot at civilians. Thanks to the pressure of the world community, they were forced to retreat. The parliament of Latvia officially declared its independence in August 1991, during the coup d'etat in Moscow, whose organizers declared a state of emergency in the Baltic states. After the failure of the coup and the international pressure, Russia finally recognize the independence of Latvia.

source from somewhere from

08-22-02, 09:06 PM
Originally posted by NenarTronian
Hm. In America, cheese is more of a pot snack :D

Once again, thanks for all the great information regarding your country Avatar, is seems wonderful.

it tastes different , than your usual cheese

08-22-02, 09:15 PM
The Identity of Latvian National Culture
(Fragments from the essay "The Borders of Borderless Winds")
Imants Ziedonis, Latvian poet

Namable or Unnamable Identity?

There is a problem whether national cultural identity can be named if, with good reason, it has been said that national identity mostly is irrational, metaphysical and elusive.
I am a poet and am well aware that poems neither yield to translation into prose, nor can they be grasped in any review in their entirety. At the same time, what happens between two lovers on a honeymoon can be expressed in no love poem. Nor the feelings of a believer at the moment when God reveals Himself. That is the presence of the Big One, the sate of irreducibility, the riddle of existence – you name it. And yet love has its own schools and teachings, and they can and have been expressed.

Between East and West.

Latvians live along the line of confrontation between East and West, occupying a space diffuse in the political, demographic and philosophical sense; a space where the assessment and evaluation of our nation by the participants tends to be quite diplomatically evasive. One could choose to trust this evasiveness or not to do so.
Our historic experience has taught us caution, because the Latvian nation has been placed in a critical demographic situation. The deportations of hundreds of thousands of innocent people to Siberia during the years of Soviet assimilation, the escape of the wealthiest Latvians to the West, the destruction of all the prosperous farms through forcible collectivization, the eradication of the best young people through conscription in the occupation armies: all this virtually destroyed the Latvian middle class. Of course, it was all done in a purposeful way and, paradoxically, "a systematic annihilation of the identity of the Latvian state and nation was begun at a time when the rest of the world celebrated the victory over Nazism; thus the Latvian land and people were victimized by both the Nazi and the Communist regimes." That is how former president of Latvia, Mr.Guntis Ulmanis, has put it. He also reminds us that no other country lost almost 40% of its population during World War II; no other European country has seven cities where, as a result of post-war russification, the indigenous population has become a minority. New demographic forces swiftly and freely moved into this rarefied space. For the most part, these are Russophile forces that hope to transform Latvia into a Russian satellite. All this should be kept in mind when we talk about Latvian cultural identity. Culture, understood as a quality of national self- confidence, can achieve safety only in a politically guaranteed space.
But Latvian culture today is not a culture of complaint, despite the fact that the world is undergoing a process of market erosion of national values. This erosion is caused by objective factors: the increasingly ephemeral understanding of life; a heightened sense of entropy; amplified pluralism, boundless relativism and anarchy, as well as sectarianism in man’s search for God. In Latvia, all these factors have been intensified by the philosophical unpreparedness (after long years of Soviet disorientation), attending our encounter with the intense and free flow of new information.

Idiosyncrasy. The closed and open circles of culture

A nation’s potential for survival is determined by its material, social and spiritual welfare. When the first two prevail, our capacity for civility is manifest. As we emphasize the latter two, it is culture we are talking about. Within the fields of civilization and culture a nation possesses values of a more genuine, inherent, idiosyncratic and original nature, as well as those of a more integrated, internationalized, reflexive character. Provisionally we can speak of at least two layers of circles of values: those that are unique and idiosyncratic, and those that have arisen as a result of international dialogue. One could call these "values of monologue" and "values of dialogue", respectively.
Contrary to common misconceptions, the more idiosyncratic values of a culture are not always found in its most archaic features. One sign of Latvian idiosyncrasy is the white stork. People respect this bird, they offer help in its search for suitable nesting places, and the possibility that someone might hunt or kill a stork is inconceivable. One cannot imagine the Latvian landscape without stork nests in trees, on top of posts, water towers and even the chimneys of abandoned houses. The fact that this bird chooses to live in Latvia (with the greatest density of stork nests in Europe) can only be explained by the biological and scenic variety of Latvian landscape and by the healthy state of its ecology. At a time when the environment of European countries becomes ever more homogenous and barren this wise bird has found in Latvia the most advantageous conditions for its well being. It does not mean, however, that the white stork has been a permanent fixture of Latvian landscape. Among Latvian folksongs, noted bearers of an almost encyclopedic record of our people’s life ways, there are few where the name of the stork is mentioned alongside that of other birds. This means that the density of stork nests, as a sign of Latvian identity, is a phenomenon of recent history.
Another idiosyncratic Latvian symbol is our national here, Lacplesis (Lacplesis). Originating in the archetypal world of fairy- tales, he was actualized and honored as our “main hero” only in the last century when the writer Andrejs Pumpurs, responding to geopolitical necessity, sought to advance the cause of Latvian liberty by publishing his epic poem of the same name. Lacplesis, son of a man and a female bear, is a figure from the ancient totemic world. He is joined by Kurbads, the Mare’s Son, who may be an ancient remnant of the globally recognizable centaur myth. In the mythical sense, he is better rooted than Lacplesis, seemingly more acceptable today than Lacplesis, who as one who kills living creatures, is perhaps an ecologically dubious individual. Such aggression is rare in Latvian folklore, where man appears tolerant, pantheistic, a harmonious and caring part of nature. Why did the nation suddenly need a hero with the grasp and strength of a marine soldier? After all, folksongs touch upon themes of war and warriors only with reluctance; the harshest characterization of warriors is reserved for a few quatrains:

Winds blow over the hill
Churning water in the lake;
My brother rides off to war
Locking his heart up in stone.

Latvia lacks those heroic epics, replete with bloody battles and cruelties, that are common among many other nations. There is no glorification of revenge. So where arose this need for a larger than life athlete, a warrior who can hold his own and even claim victory in the cruelest of battles? My answer is simple. Lacplesis was born from our sense of being geopolitically endangered. Andrejs Pumpurs, as a young poet and officer in the Russian-Turkish war, witnessed the scope and cruelty of the battles. He produced his epic poem "in world likeness", complete with a hero to symbolize the national defense force, an embodiment of national self-confidence and strength. In the 19th century, ideas of national romanticism swept across Central and Eastern Europe. The stronger and wiser among the activists of enlightenment, as counterparts to the great world heroes, put forth their own. In Latvia, suffocating for centuries under colonial yoke, national self-confidence had matured to the point that it could mobilize forces necessary for its national survival. And as both East and West posed twin threats of assimilation to this newly self-confident nation, wunderkind Lacplesis sprung forth. From that point on this figure grew in tandem with the fight for national survival.

Cultural Identity means Living

Identity means "sameness". Comparison needs two sides. And the two sides are represented by our present, our present being and our understanding of that being, our convention, our agreement. Our cultural identity is found only in that which is, lives, wants to live and flourish. It exists and will continue to exist without our attempt to define it. Yet it will flourish and become richer if the intellectuals and, first of all, the social scientists and humanitarians, from their point of vantage, are capable of seeing how the two circles of culture overlap: the limited local culture and the free flowing pan-culture of indeterminate boundaries. That will only be possible if the wise induce, deduce, integrate, appeal, tend and transcend; if they dislocate, encyst and insist, pragmatize and finance; if they do not drink or eat themselves to death. Moreover, if they find the names for all these processes, values, models and methods for communication.
I would like to refer to the quotation from Rainis:

"Encased in a fragile shell,
Our soul joins the eternity of the world…
The soul does not know its own greatness.
But time will come
And it will know also the unknown."

To get information about this Latvian unknown, this Latvian X, one should start with what can be seen and acquired; with what can be given and taken, felt and enjoyed. One should start with the livable. Cultural identity is living. That simple. It could be the traditions that wholly or in part are still living today, or the application of inherited things and shapes, symbols and rites in everyday life. It could be mythical, metaphysical formulae for which the modern man feels some atavistic or saving future need. It could also be the tested values of classical art or the contemporary creativity of contemporary personalities: cultural identity exists only so far as it refers to the present.
The main point of this article is that both local and pan-European cultural politics should do everything possible to demonstrate the cultural idiosyncrasies of each nation visibly, in the quality of mutual exchange and to our mutual benefit. A beautiful, visible example can be found in the buildings by the famous Latvian-American architect Gunars Birkerts. When asked if he felt something Latvian in himself, in his way of thinking and activities, he replied: "I have always felt I am a Latvian architect… But it is not a feeling I myself could identify. Others have named it ‘the Baltic flow’. The destiny of an architect is to know his own history and culture and his personal genetic and ethnic origin."
This essay is not a systematic study but rather a set of proposals. I point to a number of singular values, apart from the ones mentioned above (Lacplesis’ ability to subsist and defend culture in a politically dual environment; the affectionate diminutive in folksongs; the national power of concentration in a song festival hymnic chorus; small scale, ecological tourism in a land of storks), that are present in Latvia (and only there) and that are capable of enriching European society.
Among these one could mention the great number of landscape variations in one square kilometer of Latvian land; the Midsummer night’s festival, Jani, with its unique melodies and fertility rites already absent in the Dionysian festivals of other nations. Another is the Latvian custom of drinking birch sap in spring and making beverages from it to be consumed in the months of summer heat. Yet another is book publishing: the huge editions of poetry books (up to 35 000 copies for a nation of 1.5 million) and the great number of choirs among which about a dozen have won top prizes at international festivals. From the 18th century on, world construction specialists have been aware of Pinus rigensis, the unique Latvian pine whose wood is considered superior for construction. One has to mention the Latvju Dainas, eight thick volumes of Latvian folksongs – laconic quatrains that, among many other things, contain essential formulae for building one’s character, formulae that are useful still – and perhaps particularly – today. One of these appears to advise us to build personality on four cornerstones: vigor, wisdom, beauty and strength; no personality is complete or harmonious if at least one of these components is missing; they should all be present simultaneously and impervious to any outside influences. Latvju Dainas is probably the only collection of ancient epic fragments that has not been translated into world languages and submitted to international research, a collection that is unique in its Snaskritic timelessness and presentation of encyclopedic information in a surprisingly modern way.
Last but not least, there is the Latvian language, one of the last two leaves on the Baltic Language branch that has retained its ancient ties with Sanskrit and deep, philosophically harmonious word meanings. For example, consider the word razenais, used to denote "a man of culture". Razenais has a whole range of meanings: "strong, fertile, well-to-do, rich, effective, controlled, persistent…" Razenais is a principle of guidance, empathy and assistance. The formula "a political nation" is meaningless if it does not incorporate the riches offered by the notion of "an ethnic nation". Politics is less than politic without an understanding of human values; a nation is less national if it does not see and respect its inherent ethnic origins. This ethnic initiation in no way contradicts the great futurist objectives: gene engineering, floating cities, three dimensional television, electronic daycare, genetic code or voice as a replacement of fingerprints, a global information network, etc., etc.
It is commonly agreed that Riga is a convincing Jugendstil (Art nouveau) city. As the 800th anniversary of Riga’s founding draws nearer, it has become a favorite conference subject, as has the so-called "green architecture" in Latvia, its parks, roadsides, country lanes and landscapes surrounding country estates, or the phenomenon of Latvian song festivals that take place on an unprecedented scale (choirs of up to twenty thousand singers under the guidance of world class conductors).
The list of cultural idiosyncrasies does not end here. The aforementioned are just a few of the more visible ones. The whole range is quite impressive but it is – yes, confined, in the same sense that a gulf attracts surfers from around the globe. It is as confined as an ocean stream that nevertheless bears its own unique name. It can be likened to an ocean breeze on the line where the earth meets the sea: never the same at the time of sunset and sunrise. Why should we always assume that all that we have has been brought by impressive winds from faraway shores? There are winds originating in Latvia that can be felt elsewhere. Winds are born in Latvia as well. And we live within the limits of our peculiarities. Even if they are the limits of limitless winds.

08-26-02, 04:23 PM

Ethnographic Open-Air Museum in Riga

Latvian heritage sites include individual territories, places, buildings and objects, and are a part of the world’s cultural historical heritage. As cultural monuments they are united by their individual values, be they historical, scientific, artistic or other. Their maintenance serves the interests not only of our country and people, but the interests of world cultural and historical heritage preservation.

Within the Republic of Latvia, which has an area of 64 589 km sq., and a population of 2 422 946 inhabitants, there are 8325 protected heritage sites. The greater part of these sites are architectural monuments - 3412 architectural sites, 2514 archaeological sites, 2251 artistic sites. However there are only 105 historical sites, and 38 urban building sites. The inclusion of the historic centre of Riga (which includes buildings in the old city and art nouveau area) in the UNESCO world cultural and natural heritage list in 1997 is attestation to the significance of Latvian heritage sites.

Latvia has one of the longest histories of heritage protection in Europe. Its origins can be attributed to the historic period in the 1600s when the Vidzeme region was under Swedish rule. Therefore the Swedish king’s Karl 11th’s decree concerning special state protection for heritage sites also applied to Vidzeme. Even though there was significant awareness and registration of heritage sites during the next few centuries, it was only after the foundation of the independent Republic of Latvia after WWI, that a special state institution was created - the Heritage Board and a law was passed concerning protection of heritage sites. When Latvian independence was reinstated in 1991, protection and use of heritage sites was fulfilled by the national cultural heritage inspection, in conformity with the Law concerning protection of cultural heritage sites passed in 1992. Today there are approximately 30 laws and resolutions that are linked to various aspects concerning protection of heritage sites. Heritage sights are included in a special list of protected sights, giving them specific legal status. Heritage sites include a number of various site groups - archaeological, architectural, buildings, art and historic. Archaeological sites are witness to the culture and history of the inhabitants of Latvia who lived in previous centuries and millenniums. The most visually attractive of these are Latvia’s castle mounds, which number more than 450. Latvia’s most majestic castle mounds, which are fortified by a number of ramparts, and moats, and around which substantial settlements had developed, are to be found at Talsi, Kazdanga, Tervete, Mezotne, Daugmale, Aizkraukle (Aizkraukle castle mound - a typical castle mound of the ancient Latvians ( ) , and Jersika. They serve to remind us of the prehistory that is still an important aspect of the development of our identity. The reconstructed Araišu ezerpils village construction (700s to 800s) is a unique archaeological site, as are the three so called velna laivas (devil’s boats), in northern Kurzeme - stone piles formed in the shape of a boat, which were used as burial sites at the end of the bronze era, rarely found on the east coast of the Baltic Sea.

Latvian architectural sites serve to delight even the uninformed in this sphere. In Latvia there are more than 75 Middle Age castle ruins that remind us of the harsh and difficult life in this period, whereas the elegant, refined, or reserved estates and castles of the new age arouse wonder. Architectural sites are represented by all styles, starting from the Romanesque Ikškile church, and the gothic St.Simon’s church in Valmiera and St.John’s church, to the countless modern style buildings of this century in all Latvian towns and cities. In Latvia the Baroque buildings are the most magnificent - the Rundale and Jelgava castles, the Reitern and Dannenstern houses in Riga. No less impressive is castle in Eleja built in the Classicism style, the Arsenal complex in Riga, the magnificent Daugavpils fort. The renewal of the Riga town square has begun with the reconstruction of the Renaissance era Blackheads' building, which will allow you to get a feel for the old, but ravaged face of old Riga. Parks are also included as architectural sites, and there are many of them in Latvia - Broad parks surrounding new era estates and castles, for instance, in Aluksne, as well as Riga’s green zone - Vermanu garden, Viestura garden and others, too many to mention.

Latvia’s heritage sights also include many art objects, however the greater parts of them are to be found in Latvia’s museums. They include sculptures and paintings as well as applied art objects (items of church worship, chandeliers, railings) and decorative elements (an outstanding example are the stained glass windows of the Riga Dome church, crafted at the end of the previous century). Many art objects are situated in churches - with their magnificent splendour they adorn the altars of catholic churches in Aglona, Kraslava and Dagda and are reminiscent of the Baroque culture of Southern Europe. In Kurzeme the most notable cultural values of the 1600s to 1700s created the Ventspils Sefrens school of wood carving (their most significant achievement being the altar of St.Anne’s church in Liepaja, crafted in 1697). The oldest stone sculptures in Latvia are located in the courtyard of the Riga castle - they are sculptures of St.Mary and the Livonian order by maestro Walter von Plettenberg, sculpted in 1515. Memorial sculptures in Latvia’s cemeteries are nostalgically sad, but at times monumentally grand, for instance, at the Riga Meza, and Raina cemeteries, where statues crafted by Latvian classic sculptors can be seen.

City building heritage sites take up the largest area. They include the centres of the oldest Middle Age buildings in Latvia in Cesis, Bauska, Ventspils, Kuldiga, and Aizpute, as well as the wood and stone construction of the new age. In Tukums, Kandava and Jekabpils. The Jurmala summer holiday region, and the Mezaparks region in Riga are original architectural heritage sites dating from the previous century and the beginning of this century. The Ligatne paper factory and village in Vidzeme, and the Kosrags and Sikrags villages in northern Kurzeme are unique heritage sites reflecting the everyday working life of country folk. Different, but no less impressive, is the Daugavpils fortress.

Historic heritage sites - they are places that have been significant in Latvian history, and the creation of the Latvian nation. Latvia has not escaped the ravages of war this century, and as a result one can find war cemeteries from WWI and WWII with the graves of Russian, Soviet, and German soldiers, as well as the rest places of the freedom fighters of 1919-1921. The oldest war memorial in Latvia dates from 1701 on Lucavsala island where 400 Russian soldiers are buried, however the remainder of the cemetery dates from the 1900s.There are also graves of Estonian soldiers in Cesis and Rujiena, Polish soldiers in Daugavpils, and Finnish soldiers in Tukums, from WWI and the fight for Latvian independence. The places from which Latvians were forcibly deported to Soviet concentration camps, 1940-1941 and 1949, emit a tragic atmosphere. Today nearly every train station in Latvia features a memorial stone or plaque in memory of the victims of this tragic event.

Latvia has 8 culturally historical territories, whose cultural heritage is closely associated with unique nature sites and scenery. Such is the picturesque Abava valley in Kurzeme, and the Daugava valley between Plavinas and Skriveri. And of course one must mention the Turaida museum and reservation in the ancient river valley of the most beautiful river in Latvia - the Gauja.

Really, there are many diverse heritage sites in Latvia. And their value is not only in their cultural and historical meaning, they are an important part of our everyday life and part of our consciousness. To mention but a few - the symbol of Latvian independence and unity - the Freedom monument in Riga, or the monumentally great Riga Bralu kapi (The Brother Cemetery) which serves to remind us of the difficult fight for independence in which much blood was spilt, the Lacplesis statue sculpted by K.Jansons for the soldiers who liberated Jelgava, or the statue of Latgales Mara, which has become the symbol of Latvia’s most singular region, Latgale. Monuments - Latvia’s history and culture, Latvia’s symbol in the past, present and future.

Text: Andris Sne, the State Inspection Authority for the Protection of Cultural Monuments

08-27-02, 01:29 PM
(Latvian cities throughout the centuries)

Today, 77 towns and cities are located in the relatively small Republic of Latvia. Latvian cities have undergone diverse changes throughout the centuries. Some of them, like Straupe, Rauna, and Koknese have lost their former glory and status, however, the city of Daugavpils has changed its location. Latvian cities have developed and grown around trade and traffic routes, nowadays, more so around significant manufacturing facilities, (Olaine, Aizkraukle). Some former cities have been swallowed up by their larger expanding neighbours, for instance, Gostini has joined Plavinas, Krustpils has joined Jekabpils, Griva has joined Daugavpils.
The development of Latvian cities commenced in the 900s- 1100s, as it did in the rest of Northern Europe. During this time wide settlements developed, particularly in significant farming and trading centres, more often near a harbour. These are considered to be the earliest Latvian cities, some of which had areas of up to 15 hectares, (at the castle mounds of Daugmale, Jersika, and Mezotne). The development of these cities was cut short by the invasion of the crusaders in the 1200s, the development of new political and social organisations, and the introduction of a new culture.
The 1200’s were a time when the foundation of the oldest still existing city, Riga, took place. It acquired city status in 1201. In the Middle Ages city status was granted to 11 inhabited settlements. Of these, 8 were also members of the most significant Northern European trading organisation - the Hanseatic League. 24 new cities were founded in the centuries that followed till 1918. This period of time was characterised by countless wars and power changeovers. With the creation of an independent Republic of Latvia the number of cities doubled. City status was granted to 30 inhabited places in a period of 20 years. During the 50-year period of annexation to the USSR only 4 new cities were established. After the renewal of independence in 1991, however, city status was granted to 21 inhabited areas.
Today the life of each Latvian city revolves around its own local government, according to the legislation concerning local government passed in 1991. Latvian cities are differentiated by their status: 7 cities of the Republic, (Riga, Daugavpils, Liepaja, Jelgava, Ventspils, Jurmala and Rezekne), and regional towns.

Inhabitants and Economy

Today the larger part of Latvia’s population resides in city areas- that is 1 675 000 inhabitants or approximately 68 % of the population. Latvian cities differ greatly in size. 21 cities have a population of over 10 000, the largest of these being Riga (population 815 800), Daugavpils (population 117 500), and Liepaja (population 96 270). However the smallest Latvian towns are Durbe (population 460), Subate (population 1019) and Piltene (population 1226).
The nation’s largest and most famous manufacturing concerns like the stock companies "Aldaris", "Laima" and others are concentrated in the cities. Latvia’s largest manufacturing centres are in Riga, Ventspils and Daugavpils. There are 3 significant harbours - in Riga, Ventspils and in Liepaja. Through these harbours there is movement of Latvian export and import, as well as a large portion of Russian- European transit.

Cultural Life in Latvian Cities

Riga is the capital of Latvia, and has been visited in previous centuries by many politicians and monarchs. Also many famous scientists and artists such as the enlightened philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, and the composer Richard Wagner. Today there are professional theatres in Riga, Liepaja, Valmiera, and Daugavpils. Every regional town has a museum, and in Riga the museums number more than 50 - the museum of History and Shipping founded in 1773, being the oldest in the Baltic.
Internationally recognised festivals regularly take place in Riga, the film festival "Arsenals" (in Riga), the Middle Ages music festival (in Riga and Bauska), and the ballet festival (in Riga). Latvian choirs and folk dance troupes take part in a song and dance festival every 4 years, and have achieved a high level of recognition at Scandinavian song and dance festivals. Jurmala is a favourite holiday-place in Latvia, well known for its health resorts, which are slowly regaining their former status.

Cultural Heritage in Latvian Cities

Even though there are architectural similarities amongst Latvian cities, each has its own unique charm. Archaeological monuments in some cities are testimony to their former importance. Majestic and attractive castle mounds can be found in Limbazi, Aluksne, and Saldus, in Grobina, a unique Scandinavian cemetery and castle mound (600s-700s). The Middle Ages had introduced stonewalling to Latvian architecture. The first stone wall building to be built in Latvia was the Ikskile church, in 1185, which still exists today on a small island in the river Daugava. The most important element of the Middle Age town was the castle of its noblemen. Many Latvian towns of the Middle Ages featured stone castles, however the only surviving reconstructed examples remain in Riga and in Jekabpils. Ongoing reconstruction of Middle Age castles is taking place in Cesis, Turaida and Bauska. Smaller remains are to be found in Dobele, Limbazi, Valmiera, Rezekne and Ludza.
The most impressive baroque castle is to be found in Jelgava, designed and built by Rastrelli. The 200 or so art nouveau structures in Riga are of exceptional importance to the architecture of this century and it is with good reason that Riga can be called the art nouveau capital of the world.
It is structures from the last 100- 200 years that mostly survive in Latvian cities, including churches whose beginnings can be attributed to the Middle Ages. Works of famous artists adorn Latvian churches, for instance, the altar painting by J.K.Dorn from Koenigsberg (painted 1742-1758) in the Liepaja Holy Trinity church. The architecture of Latvia’s small towns is singularly beautiful, formed by its one and two store structures, soviet apartment blocks, and city centres. More than 20 town centres are protected by law as part of Latvian national heritage, and in 1997 the historical centre of Riga was included in the UNESCO heritage list of the world’s most important cultural and natural sites.

Riga - The Capital

Riga, the oldest city in Latvia, has developed into an important economic, political and cultural centre since the Middle Ages. When the formation of an independent Latvian Republic occurred in 1918, Riga became the capital. Today more than half of Latvia’s population lives in Riga, as well as the country’s largest manufacturing concerns, as well as central government and administration boards. Amongst the 50 museums to be found in Riga the oldest and largest are the Museum of History and Shipping, the Museum of Natural Sciences, the Museum of Latvian History, the National Art Gallery, and the Latvian Ethnographic open-air-museum. The National Opera and Latvia’s most professional theatres are also situated in Riga.
Riga’s 800-year history has left its mark on the face of the city, where Middle Age dwellings and church towers coexist with art nouveau and eclectic architecture. Riga’s park land boulevard zone and the wooden buildings of the Pardaugava region emit a unique charm. The value of Riga’s cultural and historical significance has been verified by the fact that its old city centre has been included in UNESCO’S list of the world’s most important cultural and natural sites.

Ventspils - Harbour in the Baltic Sea

Ventspils is one of the oldest cities in Latvia, first mentioned in documents in 1378. In its very beginnings Ventspils was a harbour city as it also is today. It is one of Latvia’s most important harbours through which passes a great deal of shipping transit. In 1996 Ventspils gained free port status. In 1997, due to intensification of education in regional areas, the Ventspils University was founded, including Economics, Business Management and Translation faculties. The old city centre of Ventspils, with its Middle Age castle and romantic small town buildings, has recently undergone a facelift, and compliments the dynamic city it is today.

Aluksne - the Pearl of Northern Vidzeme

Aluksne is the highest geographically situated town in Latvia - about 200 metres above sea level. Archaeological findings in the settlement on Cepurite island in lake Aluksne, are proof of the area being inhabited in the Stone Ages. Aluksne was first mentioned in historical documents in 1285, but it gained town status only in 1920. The Latgalian Temple Hill, the Livonian castle ruins, and the manor house (1700 - 1800) and Jauna Pils (New Castle), are testimony to its centuries long history. The Aluksne castle gardens are notable for their artistic value and the complex scenic plan. Church minister Ernest Glueck, who first translated the Bible into the Latvian language, lived and worked in Aluksne. Oak trees that he planted 300 years ago near the church still grow there today, and nearby is the Ernest Glueck Bible Museum, the only one of its kind in Europe.

Sabile – "Switzerland" in the Heart of Kurzeme

Sabile is situated in the ancient Abava river valley. It is called the "Switzerland" of Kurzeme because of its scenic beauty. The fact that the ancient river valley has been included in UNESCO’S list of the world’s 100 most unique and endangered sites is testimony to its significance.
Sabile developed around a castle of the Livonian Order in the 1300s. It was only granted town status in 1917. Vineyards, which were cultivated in Sabile in the Middle Ages, have been renewed today. The place where they grow, Sabiles Vinakalns, has been mentioned in the Guiness Book of Records as the most Northern vineyard in the world, (Sabile is situated on the 57th latitude).
The Pedvale open-air museum is near Sabile, where modern art installations are organically incorporated into the beauty of the surrounding natural scenery.

Text: Andris Sne, the State Inspection Authority for the Protection of Cultural Monuments

08-27-02, 01:32 PM
WOW, I was just expecting your answer to be 'Ah, its good here' and that was the end of it. Kudos. Its very interesting. So much history in so little time.

08-27-02, 01:53 PM
i've got a very short attention span about 5sec. . .... oh, look, a birdie. "he he eh heheh," *gets up and runs away from computer trying to catch bird*.

08-27-02, 02:02 PM
hey- I'm posting if smones interested- if noone is - I'll stop it

I'll have to create a website about Latvia smday maybe

08-27-02, 02:42 PM
Reconstruction of the Latvian costumes
from the 11-13th century.

What is a National Costume?

National costumes are an integral part of Latvia’s heritage. The ones that have survived up to the present are the costumes worn on festive occasions They have been handed down from generation to generation as colourful adornments and treasured heirlooms. Ordinary garments have been less well preserved. A national costume includes everything that its owner has made for wearing in various seasons and on various occasions.

In contemporary usage, the term “national costume” refers to the apparel of the indigenous inhabitants of Latvia - the Balts and Livs. These original inhabitants were country folk-farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen. Their apparel is an important part of Latvia’s cultural heritage and a valuable source for historical studies. Along with the costumes themselves, information about their construction and ornamentation has survived from antiquity. The power of tradition ensured that a generation would continue to think, act, and believe as its predecessors had done.

The Development of National Costumes

Previous generations seemed to attach more importance to things than we do. Garments worn on festive occasions lasted for several lifetimes because each generation was proud to wear the beautiful adornments-brooches, woollen shawls, patterned belts, and head-coverings inherited from its ancestors; at the same time, it was free to add modern accessories. Undoubtedly, every garment had its own unknown history and legends, but at least we can be certain that each piece, because of its individual maker and wearer, was unique. While preserving and continuing the traditions of a region, each wearer created his or her own distinctive costume.

Women’s Costume

Formed by the thirteenth century, the main parts of a woman’s costume consisted of a skirt and a long-sleeved, tunic-shaped linen shirt, which was a unisex garment worn alone or with other pieces. The shirt and skirt were sewn from a square fabric without the aid of a pattern.

Skirt. Before the nineteenth century, there is evidence of a skirt which was not sewn but which was simply a piece of fabric wrapped around the body and secured with a belt. The Livs wore skirts that extended above the waist. They consisted of two pieces of fabric-one for the front, one for the back-which were fastened at the shoulders (later, sewn together) and cinched with a woven belt. The two-piece skirt was the precursor of the skirt with a sewn upper part, and from the wrap- around skirt developed a sewn skirt with pleats or gathers.

The basic function of the sash, or josta, was to secure the skirt, as well as to girdle the waist, in order to allow freedom of movement. Incidentally, only women wore patterned sashes; it is believed that the designs are related to traditions of fertility cults. In Liv regions during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, patterned sashes were not worn because there the apron served the same fertility-related function. The length of the sash varied; long sashes of three meters or more were wrapped around the waist several times.

Shawl. In all regions an essential part of the national costume was the woollen shawl, or villaine, a rectangular or square fabric draped around the shoulders. Possibly, this piece was the oldest part of the costume. It served a dual purpose: embroidered or otherwise adorned, it accented a costume worn on festive occasions; plain or checked, it kept the wearer warm.

Summer shawls were made of linen. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, festive shawls were chiefly white or sometimes blue. In earlier centuries, they were predominantly dark blue with bronze ornamentation. The function of a festive shawl was to adorn and protect the wearer, as if isolating her from the outside world. Occasionally, multiple shawls, skirts, and head coverings were worn, perhaps to show off the owner’s prosperity.

Head Covering.
For at least a thousand years, the head covering served to signify the wearer’s marital status. The symbolic covering for a maiden was a wreath or crown (vainags). In Liv regions, a ribbon served the same purpose. It was unseemly for a married woman to go out bareheaded. On festive occasions, married women used to wear a head-cloth, a practice that continued throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During this period, various types of women’s hats were worn. For daily wear, married and unmarried women favoured homespun linen or woollen scarves. At the end of the 18th century, commercially manufactured silk scarves became a fashionable part of the national costume; they were worn on the head, over a hat, or around the shoulders. In the making of the head covering, various manufactured materials were used-glass beads, lace, and fabric.

Men’s Costume

The men’s costume was more influenced by city fashions than was the women’s costume. While the tunic-style shirt remained unchanged, the trousers and jacket, though homespun, began in the eighteenth century to reflect city fashions.

Military uniforms also influenced the style of the men’s costume, especially in details such as lapels and embroidery. Women usually sewed their own costumes, but men often enlisted the aid of a tailor. Jackets and trousers for daily wear were usually made of grey homespun material; white fabric was used for festive occasions. A belt was worn with the long jacket. A woven belt was characteristic of eastern regions; leather, metal, or leather with metal was typical of western (Kurzeme) regions. Until the mid-nineteenth century, trousers came to below the knee, and woven stockings came up to the knee. Long trousers became popular in the latter part of the century. The most popular head-dress was the broad-brimmed hat made of felt and adorned with a ribbon. The summer hat was made of straw.


The chief footwear for men and women was pastalas, a simple footwear made of a single piece of leather and tied with laces. It served for daily and festive wear. In cold weather, several pairs of stockings were worn. In earlier times-and up to the twentieth century-feet were ordinarily wrapped in footcloths. Festive occasions called for shoes or boots, which indicated the owner’s prosperity


Costumes for festive occasions were adorned with embroidered, woven, or knitted designs to make them visually impressive, distinctive, and unique. Geometric designs are characteristic of Latvian folk art; they consist of separate elements combined in a unified composition. It is possible that the intricate patterns are a form of writing, a way of communicating a concept or a wish. In the Latvian language, the same word is used to denote writing and ornamentation. Sometimes a design, or raksts, consists of ever-changing patterns. Traditional ornaments and decorative designs have been preserved chiefly in national costumes.


Colours played an important role in costume adornments. White and grey predominated because costumes were made of natural fabrics, such as linen and wool. In ancient times, yarn was coloured with natural dyes, chiefly from indigenous plants. The designs on mittens, shawls, and sashes were created from combinations of four colours-red, blue, green, and yellow. These colours occurred in various shades and proportions in every part of the costume that was made of wool. Possibly, the strict observance of traditions regarding colour was related to concepts in magic.

White, with its magical associations, holds a special place in Latvian folklore. The word itself is synonymous with purity, goodness, and enlightenment. White was deemed fitting for festive garments.

Latvians, like other Eastern European nations, use red in their national costumes. Red has always been associated with fire, blood, life. Red cotton threads decorated linen garments, such as aprons, head-coverings, and shirts.

Black, which was regarded as the colour of the gentry, was not characteristic of national costumes. The use of black in farmers’ garments began in the second half of the nineteenth century, and then only in combination with other colours in striped skirts or patterned mittens.

Regional Differences

Each region of Latvia developed its own distinctive traditions regarding costumes. Tied as they were to their homes and lands, farmers were acquainted only with their immediate vicinity but were ignorant of the traditions and practices or more distant villages. Everything necessary for fashioning the national costumes according to regional traditions was found at home. As long as these traditions were observed, the national costumes retained their distinctive designs. Home-made costumes for daily wear preserved traditional features longer than did festive costumes, which were more susceptible to influences from the city. Exceptions were some regions in Kurzeme-Nica, Rucava, and Alsunga--where festive costumes remained unchanged until the mid-twentieth century, though ordinary garments were store bought. Traditions governing national costumes are still alive in these regions.

National Costumes Today

Having lost their utility in daily life, national costumes are mainly valued museum pieces. However, even today some parts of society are eager to revive the use of national costumes as a way of affirming their national identity or adding a distinctive touch to holidays and special occasions. One such occasion is the Song and Dance Festival, where national costumes are worn not only by the singers and dances but also by the audience. The wearing of national costumes creates a feeling of unity among those present and affirms a link to the past. Together with the songs and dances, national costumes demonstrate Latvia’s cultural heritage to the world.

Things tend to last only as long as someone needs them. Nowadays there is still a need for national costumes. Orders for individuals and organisations are filled by artisans at studios of applied arts. Young people in trade schools or home economics schools are learning to make national costumes. Displayed as a diploma work, a handmade national costume can take years to construct as its maker masters weaving, embroidery, and other essential skills. By fashioning one’s own costume, the maker becomes acquainted with one’s family history because the pattern for the costume is chosen from the region or district of one’s ancestors.

Designs characteristic in national costumes are reflected in professional works of art, as well as in everyday objects. These ethnic accents help to distinguish Latvians from other nationalities.

Although the traditions associated with national costumes are part of history, the desire of each generation to be creative and individualistic in one’s apparel is still alive today.

Sources of Additional Information
In English:
Latvian National Costumes, Vol. 1: Vidzeme.- Riga, Museum of History of Latvia, 1995.
Latvian National Costumes, Vol. 2: Kurzeme.- Riga, Museum of History of Latvia, 1997.
Latvian National Costumes, Vol. 3: Zemgale, Augszeme, Latgale.- In preparation.
In French:
Ornement Letton, 3 vols.- Paris, 1990.

Written by: Ilze Zingite (The Museum of History of Latvia)

08-27-02, 04:04 PM
No, keep posting. I'm enjoying learning about this.

Well, you have the content for a site on Latvia at least

08-27-02, 04:33 PM
Yeah right Thor, you're not reading all of that.

08-27-02, 04:49 PM

I am actually reading most of it. I admit I'm not reading everything, but I am reading a lot:p

08-27-02, 04:55 PM
I know it's a lot of info

but I better give much and you choose what you want or not, or what interests you

I never even expected smone to read it all

08-27-02, 05:07 PM
A truly beautiful presentation of our country - you won't regret seeing this - promise

Latvia is in the heart of Europe and on its way to meet the challenges of the 21st century. This 5-minute video takes you on a musical tour of Latvia today – the people and the very special places that make it one of the Baltic Sea’s natural and cultural treasures.

Featuring the song
“Welcome to my Country” by Brainstorm.

for all you who have DSL's or cables or value quality
Mpeg - 32Mb (

quality suffers and I don't advice you this smaller one
RealMedia - 18Mb (

say how you liked it :)

08-27-02, 05:16 PM
I'll get it tomorrow. That'll take about 30mins to download. I'm off soon

08-29-02, 04:40 PM
The Flag

Written records of the red-white-red Latvian flag have existed since the second half of the 13th century. Bearing a red flag with a white stripe ancient Latvian tribes went to war against ancient Estonian tribes. This historical evidence would place the Latvian flag among the oldest flags of the world.
At the end of the 1860s Latvian student, folklore researcher and later, professor Jekabs Lautenbahs-Jusmins found reference to the use of a red-white-red flag in The Oldest Rhyming Verse Chronicles of the Livonian Order. The Chronicles depicted events in Latvia in the second half of the 13th century (till 1290) and glorified the feats of the crusaders in converting the pagan inhabitants of the Latvian region to the Christian faith.
Based on the aforementioned historical record, the present day flag design was adapted by artist Ansis Cirulis in May 1917. The red colour of the Latvian flag is a particular dark red tone that is referred to as “Latvian red” in the rest of the world. The flag’s colour proportions are 2:1:2 (the upper and lower red bands are always twice as wide as the white band in the middle), and the correlation of the width and length of the flag is fixed as 1:2. The Latvian national flag, together with the national coat of arms was affirmed in this format by a special parliamentary decree of the Republic of Latvia that was passed on June 15, 1921.

The National Coat of Arms

The Latvian national coat of arms was formed after the proclamation of an independent Latvian Republic and was specially created for its independent statehood. The national coat of arms combines symbols of Latvian national statehood as well as symbols of ancient historical districts. The sun in the upper part of the coat of arms symbolises Latvian national statehood. A stylised depiction of the sun was used as a symbol of distinction and national identity by Latvian riflemen – latviesu strelnieki – recruited into the Russian imperial army during WWI. During WWI the sun figure was fashioned with 17 rays that symbolised the 17 Latvian-inhabited districts. The three stars above the coat of arms embody the idea of the inclusion of historical districts (Vidzeme, Latgale and combined Kurzeme-Zemgale) into a united Latvia.
Culturally historical regions are also characterised by older heraldic figures, which already appeared in the 1600s. Kuzeme and Zemgale (Western Latvia) are symbolised by a red lion. The lion appears as early as 1569 in the coat of arms of the former Duke of Kurzeme. Vidzeme and Latgale (Eastern Latvia) are symbolised by the legendary winged silver creature with an eagle’s head, a griffin. This symbol appeared in 1566, when the territories known today as Vidzeme and Latgale had come under Polish-Lithuanian control. The Latvian artist Rihards Zarins designed the Latvian national coat of arms.

The proper use of the Latvian coat of arms is firmly regulated. Three types of symbols are used – large, small enhanced and small.
The large coat of arms, for example, can be used by the State President, Parliament, Prime Minister, Cabinet of Ministers, government ministries, the Supreme Court and Prosecutor General, as well as Latvia’s diplomatic and consular missions.
The Small Enhanced Coat of Arms

The National Anthem

“Dievs, sveti Latviju!” ( ("God bless Latvia!") is the national anthem. The words and music were written by Karlis Baumanis (better known as Baumanu Karlis). The anthem first appeared in the second half of the 19th century when the Latvian people were beginning to openly exhibit a strong sense of national pride and identity. Karlis Baumanis was the first Latvian composer to use the word “Latvia” in a song lyric. The concept of “Latvia” had only began to take shape in the minds of writers and activists and was used to describe all regions traditionally inhabited by Latvians. Although most Latvians did not yet dare to dream of a sovereign state totally independent of the Tsarist Russian Empire, the song "Dievs, sveti Latviju!” served as a powerful catalyst for the emerging national consciousness. The use of the word "Latvia" in the song was an open challenge to the Tsarist regime that had little sympathy for national movements.
Initially, Russian authorities forbid the use of the word "Latvia" in the title and text of the song and it was replaced by the word "Baltics". It was performed publicly in June of 1873 at the First Song Festival in Riga. It was first sung as a national anthem on November 18, 1918 at the proclamation of Latvia’s independence. On June 7, 1920 "Dievs, sveti Latviju!” was officially proclaimed the national anthem of the Republic of Latvia.

Audio file of the anthem of the Republic of Latvia (MP3, 128kbit) (

When the communists/Russia annexed Latvia in June 1940 the national flag, coat of arms and anthem became illegal within Latvia itself for 50 years. Many people were persecuted simply for keeping and hiding the red-white-red flag or singing the national anthem. But the official symbols of Latvia were never forgotten and the struggle to bring the national red-white-red colours back into use marked the beginning of a renewed struggle for independence at the end of the 1980s.

Other Latvian Symbols

The National Bird

The Latvian national bird is the balta cielava or white wagtail (Motacilla alba). This slender and graceful bird is often found in Latvia from April till October. The white wagtail can usually be seen running briskly along the ground, wagging its tail up and down. This bird usually nests in the rafters and eaves of buildings, woodpiles, stone piles, and birdhouses. During the winter it migrates to Southern Europe and North Africa. The white wagtail was affirmed the national bird of Latvia in 1960 by the International Bird Protection Council.

The National Insect

The Latvian national insect is the two-spot ladybird (Adalia bipunctata). The two-spot ladybird is familiar as a useful insect that protects plants from parasites. Although rather slow by nature, it can defend itself well. Due to its appearance and behaviour it is widely known and liked throughout Latvia. The insect’s Latvian name - marite - is a synonym for the ancient Latvian goddess Mara, who embodies the power of the earth. The two-spot ladybird was designated the national insect of Latvia by the Entomological Society of Latvia.

The National Flower

The Latvian national flower is the pipene or daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare, earlier also known as Chrysanthemum leucanthemum), which also grows here in the wild. In Latvian conditions the common or wild daisy blossoms from June till September. Daisies are a very popular flower and are often used in flower arrangements or given as gifts.

National Trees

The linden, or lime tree (Tilia cordata, Latvian: liepa) and the oak (Quercus robur, Latvian: ozols) are considered the national trees of Latvia. The oak and the linden tree are characteristic elements of the Latvian landscape. Both trees are still widely used for medical purposes. Medicinal infusions are made of linden blossoms as well as oak bark. Latvian dainas (folk songs) often reflect ethical and moral concepts of earlier times. Amongst other trees, these folk songs most often mention the oak and linden tree.

In traditional Latvian folk beliefs and folklore the linden tree is looked upon as a female symbol, but the oak - a male symbol. The nation’s reverence for these trees, which in earlier times were considered sacred, can be witnessed, for example, in a landscape where, in the middle of a cultivated field there still remains a lone large, sacred oak or linden tree.


Amber has long been viewed as a precious stone associated with the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. Latvians themselves have occasionally referred to the Baltic Sea as the Amber Sea (Dzintarjura), reinforcing the symbolic importance of amber (dzintars) in Latvian culture and history. Unlike other precious and semi-precious stones which are formed through inorganic chemical processes, Baltic amber (succinite) is formed from organic elements – fossilised pine resin. For this reason, amber absorbs body heat and is easy to shape.

In ancient times Latvian territory was known as a source for amber. Amber from the Baltic Sea coast was valued as component for jewellery and was used for barter in Ancient Egypt, Assyria, Greece and the Roman Empire. At times it was considered even more valuable than gold. Just as in the past, amber today is most commonly used in jewellery. Amber has traditionally been used to create amulets, pendants, broaches, buttons, necklaces and intricate pieces of decorative jewellery. Amber has also been used for pharmaceutical purposes, since it contains succinic acid, which is considered to have unique medicinal properties.

08-29-02, 04:42 PM
Symbol of Latvian Fate – the River Daugava

The Daugava is considered the Latvian national river. The Daugava is the largest river that flows through Latvia (total length 1005 km, of these 352 km flow through Latvian territory).

Known as the "river of fate" or "mother of rivers", the Daugava has served as an ancient trade route linking the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, profoundly influencing the flow of Latvian history. For centuries the Daugava has served as an essential transport artery, means of livelihood, and source of energy. (Latvia’s hydroelectric stations are located along the Daugava). Today, as in the past, the Daugava serves as a borderline between distinct Latvian cultural and historical regions, separating Kurzeme and Zemgale from Vidzeme and Latgale.

Symbol of Independence – Freedom Monument

The Freedom monument, or Brivibas piemineklis, in the capital city Riga has become an undisputed symbol of independence. It was built from 1931 until 1935 from donated funds. The monument is designed by Latvian sculptor Karlis Zale.

At the base of the monument sculptural reliefs illustrate different significant moments in Latvia’s history, while the very top displays the symbol of freedom – a woman who embodies the idea of Latvia’s sovereignty. At the foot of the freedom monument there is never a lack of flowers, which are placed here with deep respect for those, who have formed this nation and who have sacrificed their lives in the fight for independence for the good of the nation and its people.

Jani - midnight ritual at the bonfire.

The annual celebration of the summer solstice, known as Jani is generally viewed as the most important Latvian holiday. Jani is celebrated on June 23 and 24. The traditions and rituals associated with the celebration of Jani are deeply rooted in ancient Latvian folklore and continue to have deep symbolic meaning for the celebrants. Participants gather flowers, grasses and oak leaves which are used to make wreaths and decorate the farmstead, house and farm animals. Jani night activities include the singing of special Jani songs (Ligo songs) around a ceremonial bonfire. Home-brewed beer and a special Jani caraway seed cheese are an essential part of this colourful holiday ritual.

© Text: Raimonds Ceruzis
Photographers: A.Eglitis, J.Kalnins, A.Korsaka, M.Lielkalns, T.Nigulis, J.Pigoznis, J.Talbergs, J.Zalans

08-29-02, 04:49 PM
Very interesting stuff Avatar, keep it up. :D

08-29-02, 04:54 PM
I hear sarcasm in your voice:D :eek:

don't worry- you can imagine that I post it for myself lol

08-29-02, 04:55 PM
No, I do find it interesting. I like learning about history, and about other countries. We're very isolated here in Australia from other cultures.

08-29-02, 05:03 PM
out of touch? really? why does that crack me up!

reach out and touch someone (

08-29-02, 05:12 PM
yeah- quite a lot of Latvians went to Australia in years 1940-1945

I have even an uncle living there (he left in 1970 by trespassing the ussr from Poland in a freight ship - - paid huge sums of money to corrupt harbour officials) never seen him though

08-29-02, 05:23 PM
WOW, this is my most popular thread ever.

I haven't got time to download that thing. I'll do it on Saturday when I come home from work

GB-GIL Trans-global
08-29-02, 09:55 PM
I didn't learn much, I already knew most of that.


BTW yes Avatar, I can correctly pronounce Latvian words even though I don't know what they mean.

08-29-02, 10:01 PM

well, if you need smth translated....

08-30-02, 07:31 PM
The first records of Perkons' existence came from Peter Dusburg's chronicles of circa 1320 CE. They tell only of the worship of Perkons. The first indication of Perkon's cult (Perkonu Kults, pronounced peerkonu kuults) came in 1428 on the 6th of February, when Riga (capital of Latvia) published its Statuta provincialia, which reads:

"Tomer dazi zemnieki un musu provinces Livonijas iedzivotaji nododas nevis miruso kristiesi mirstigo atlieku godinasanai, bet, kas ir jo drausmigak, par smagu apvainojumu Dievam tik loti ir iestigusi, demonu vilinati, elkdievu vara, ka galigi atmetusi palavibu uz Raditaju un sveto palidzibas davanas gaida no dabas paradibam un zemakam radibam, ka perkona, ko vini sauc par savu dievu, cuskam, tarpiem, un kokiem, kuriem vini tic [...]" (Statuta provincialia, par 27)

Basically, "we are shocked that some farmers in Livonia's (old Latvia) provinces not only do not observe Christian rites, worse, they pay homage to demon gods - completely ignoring the Holy God and instead worship gods of the earth, such as Perkons, who they call their god. Snakes, worms, and trees they also worship." Disclaimer: this is a Very Basic translation, which itself is a translation from Latin.

Perkons is likely older than Dievs; he is described in the oldest chronicles and in poetic and epic folklore. Archaeological sciences suggest that the Cult of Perkons was widely spread during the 2nd - 4th century CE. We first see documented information about Perkons in Livlaendische Reimchronic (1290), pertaining to his worship by the Curonians (Kursi). He is not more powerful than Dievs, but they are both primary divinities. Like Dievs, sometimes he descends from the Sky Mountain to walk among the people. He is sometimes referred to as the sky smith, a mighty warrior and the scourge of evil. The coals from his forge fall to the Earth and become silver, or gold.

Kalejs kala debesis
Ogles bira Daugava!...

The smith smelted in the heavens
Coals fell to the Daugava!

Perkons' forging abilities are the subject of dissension among different Dainas. In some, he forges the very sun that shines upon the Earth. In others, the sky itself.

Perkons uses his hammer as a weapon in addition to hurling lightning, much like Zeus. Perkons controls the rain. This is the likeliest reason for his popularity. In any primarily-agrarian society, rain is considered all-important, equal with, if not greater than, the sun. The sun comes out inexorably. Droughts may last for months and months. In Christian times he became known unofficially as the adversary of Velns, the Devil. Sacrifices were periodically made to appease him - prevent droughts and floods and sickness/plague. Farmers often called upon Perkons in Spring to deliver the rains:

Perkons brauca pa jurinu,
Lietins lija jurina.
Arajs ludz Perkoniti:
Brauc, Perkoni, sai zeme,
Brauc, Perkoni, sai zeme,
Mieziem asni novitusi.

Perkons sailed the sea,
Rain fell on the sea.
The farmer begged Perkons:
Come, Perkoni, to this land,
Come, Perkoni, to this land,
The livestock's blood is fading.

Occasionally even the wife and sons of Perkons help, bringing about dew and fog.

The sign of Perkons (Perkonu Raksts) is that of a swastika, but note that this was used for thousands of years before the Nazi's blackened its significance. On the Day of Perkons (Perkonu Diena) a Sign of Perkons is lit with candles. Pray the American Media does not catch wind of this without another disaster/war to divert the peoples' attention.

Sacred forests are the domain of Perkons. These forests are those of predominantly oak trees [climax ecosystem], the groves of which were fenced off either naturally or by man. The tall oaks symbolised gods; when Crusaders fought to convert the Latvians they realised that cutting down these trees was the most effective form of discouragement. The worshippers expressed that "they no longer knew where to go and pray, or where to find their god."

Perkons' connection with fire from lightning is evident in the Dainas, which mandate an ever- burning fire for the god, constantly fed by oak logs. If the fire happened to go out, it had to be restarted with oak ceremoniously struck with grey fieldstones. This is similar to the Celtic fires, and like these fires, priests on whose watch the fire extinguished were sacrificed in the name of the god. Before planting season, two black bulls were sacrificed to Perkons to ensure good rains.

One function of Perkons is controlling fertility and weather. The Catholic clergyman D. Fabricius wrote of Perkons in 1610:

"During a drought, when there has not been rain, they worship Perkons in thick forests on hills and sacrifice to him a black calf, a black goat, and a black cock. When the animals are killed, then, according their custom, the people come together from all the vicinity, to eat and drink there together. They pay homage to Perkons by first pouring him beer, which is then brought around the fire, and at last pour it in this fire, asking Perkons to give them rain."

Like all major Latvian gods, Perkons owns many horses. His are black stallions, and fittingly fierce. The Dainas describe them as:

Perkonami melni zirgi,
Ar akmeni nobaroti,
Dzer sudraba udentinu,
Teraudina silite.

Perkons black horses,
With rocks fed,
Drink silver water,
In the stables of steel.

Many Dainas describe Perkons as a learned horseman and driver. He is commonly seen as owning horses nine in number. His chariot, which he drives with skill, is made of silver, "Perkons braucu pa jurinu, / Ar sidrabu ratiniem... (Ltdz 3, 7840)" Fierce Latvian horses (kumelini) were often called "Perkons' horses."

The family of Perkons is quite extensive. His wife, called Perkona mate or "Mother of Thunder," is a strong woman who bore Perkons many sons. How many? Some Dainas say 3, some 4, 5, 6, 7, or 9. One Daina mentions three daughters in detail. These three daughters are all betrothed: one to Dievs' son, one to Auseklis' son, and one to Saule's son. Another Daina mentions only one daughter. Variations in the number of sons/daughters is due largely to locality: Dainas from different locations yield different figures. Whatever the number of sons, they are usually subdivided into three groups: sons who growl (i.e., thunder), who kick, and who emit lightning (zibina). Perkons' daughter-in-law is described in detail, wearing linens and shawl, decorated with baubles, and wearing golden shoes. Her clothes are studded with gold and silver.

The functions of Perkons' sons are many and deeply described by the Dainas. Basically, they mimic their father in actions: flinging lightning, fire, banging drums for thunder, etc. The women of Perkons' family apply themselves to more domestic actions: knitting and weaving.

The etymological origin of Perkons is Indo-European. Perkons is derived from the stems per(k) and per+g (q). Three possible interpretations of the root are:

God of thunder and rain
God of height, mountain, comparable to Gothic fairguni - "mountain", Hethic peruna - "rock", old Hindu parvata - "mountain"
God of oaks, perk-us as compared to Latin quercus - "oak"

Today, the name signifies a god of foul weather, though to the indo-Germanic tribes he was an oak god.

Perkons is similar to the the Byelorussian Pjarun, in Slavic he is Perun, Piorun in Polish, and in Lithuanian he is Perkunas.

The name in Latvian has some synonyms, though each have a slightly different meaning:

Perkonitis (prn. pehrkonihtis) is the diminutive form (characterised by -itis). This form is usually found in folk songs (tautas dziesmas) and Dainas.
Perkona tevs - father Perkons.
Vecais tevs - Old Father (Old Man).
Perkons is sometimes referred to as Dievs; though this is the same name of the primary god. This illustrates how transient the hierarchy is of the Latvians' pantheon.

The sign of Perkons, called the Sign of Fire (Ugunsraksts), symbolises light, fire, life, health, and prosperity. No other nation has used the swastika-symbol so widely, nor developed so many permutations in the design. The fire cross is a development of crossed lightning bolts.

08-30-02, 08:08 PM
Dude, post some Latvian chicks man!!! That is the thing I am most interested in at this moment :D

08-30-02, 08:23 PM
I have no idea of what are you talking about:(

08-30-02, 08:27 PM
I have no idea of what are you talking about
:D :D :D :D

08-30-02, 08:31 PM
I have no idea of what are you talking about

Okay I will try to translate I guess.

Dude = A cool studly guy
post = er...write up
some = a few
Latvian = adj for Latvia
chicks = girls
man = adult male
that = that
is = is
the = the
thing = thing
I = myself
am = am
most = er.... a large but indefinite number
interested = fascinated, attracted.
in = in
at = in
this = that
moment = instant

Edit to add:

Oh I get it. Latvia is all man no chicks. That is why Avatar has no idea :D

08-30-02, 08:33 PM
mi readz bada ingish:(
and I knou no abut girls fuckin weth chicen in Latvija

08-30-02, 08:50 PM

maybe you would like funny pictures gathered by latvians?

or you like girls better

08-30-02, 09:11 PM

What is the significance of the Latvian word for amber – dzintars? Our choral music is brought to audiences abroad by the Dzintars Choir, and dance is presented by the children’s dance ensemble Dzintarinš. The name of our main perfumery company is Dzintars; we love to put Dzintars cheese spread on our bread at breakfast. We all have somebody called Dzintars or Dzintra among our friends – the name is so common among us who live at the shore of Dzintara jura, the Amber Sea, and who have so many fine songs about amber and the sea that nurtures it. What is this sun- stone caressed by the currents of the Baltic Sea?

Amber has a special place among all the precious and semi-precious stones. Unlike other decorative materials, amber absorbs body heat and is comparatively easy to work. This is because amber consists primarily of organic compounds, instead of being formed through the action of inorganic substances. Amber is fossil resin. The chemical formula for amber is taken to be C40H64O4, but in reality the chemical composition differs for each piece of amber.

How amber is formed

In the first stage, resin oozed from the trees. This took place intermittently and intensively, and often occurred repeatedly.

In the second stage, the amber ended up in the soil of the “amber forest”. In the dry, well-aerated sandy soil physical and chemical changes took place in the resin, through the action of oxygen. The resin became harder and more durable.

In the third stage of amber formation, the amber-bearing deposits were washed out, transported and redeposited in a water-body. Amber was formed when the resin was washed by water rich in oxygen and alkaline sodium compounds. The action of these led to the formation of succinic acid and its salts. Amber that has been excavated or washed up changes under the influence of oxygen, so unlike the inorganic minerals, amber is unstable and changeable.

The age of amber

Amber is found in deposits of different ages. Well-known amber finds occur already in strata of the Mesozoic Era. However, the most important sources are deposits of the Tertiary Period. Baltic amber also belongs to this period, having been formed during the Eocene and Oligocene Epoch. Thus, our amber is about 30–40 million years old. Resin was also exuded by plants of the Palaeozoic Era, and some of this also fossilised, but since the fossilisation process has continued for a long time, the resin has carbonised and merged with coal. In the Quaternary Period too, in places with suitable climatic conditions, resin has been fossilised. However, this resin does not yet display all the characteristic properties of amber, and so is called copal, dammar or kauri.

Forms of amber and their world distribution

Amber from the Mesozoic Era, most common in Cretaceous deposits, occurs in Japan, Taimir, Switzerland, Lebanon, Alaska, New Jersey and elsewhere. Amber that is earlier than the Tertiary Period is regarded as originating only from conifers. An example is New Jersey amber, exhibiting various shades of colour that are redder and darker than Baltic amber. Alaskan amber, on the other hand, is unusually transparent and intensely coloured, displaying a range of tones from honey- yellow to black. Japanese amber often has a pleasant caramel colour. It occurs together with marine fossils and is about 85 million years old. Located on Russia’s Taimir Peninsula is possibly the world’s largest Cretaceous amber deposit, while Lebanon has one of the oldest occurrences of amber, from about 120–130 million years ago.

Gemologists are only interested in a few forms of amber that have served as raw material for jewellery in different historical periods. These were all formed during the Tertiary: Baltic amber (succinite), Romanian amber (rumenite), Sicilian amber (simetite), Burmese amber (burmite), as well as amber from Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Succinite characteristically displays honey-coloured shades of yellow, and is unique in having a very high content of succinic acid: 2– 8%. The term rumenite was introduced by Otto Helm in 1891 for the red-brown amber from the Buzeu Valley. It is not really correct to apply the term to the other forms of amber from Romania, since they are mostly pale yellow and exhibit marked internal cracking. The name simetite comes from the River Simeto, along whose banks Sicilian amber may be found. This amber, often fluorescent and showing an unusual range of colours, has nowadays become very rare. Burmite varies in colour from a rich brown to a watery yellowish tint (sherry-coloured), but intensive yellows and bone colours never occur. Most highly valued is cherry-red burmite. Often noted in the literature is the property of burmite of fluorescing in daylight with a blue-green or violet colour. Although Dominican amber is mentioned already by Columbus, it has become more widely known only during the past 20 years. The recently discovered sources are quite rich and provide comparatively large pieces. It is the softest form of amber, but in terms of other properties, Dominican amber resembles simetite.

Where is amber used?

The most widespread use of amber is in jewellery. Since ancient times, amber pendants, buttons and beads have been made, as well as more complex items. Amber has been widely used to make religious artefacts. Equally ancient is the use of amber for medicinal purposes. Amber is used to heal both internal and external disorders. Amber’s curative properties are thought to be connected with its content of succinic acid, which is a unique biostimulant. Since it is practically Baltic amber alone that contains a significant amount of succinic acid, we may consider that only Baltic amber has these medicinal properties, and each piece has them to a different degree.

The chemical composition of succinite is the reason why a large proportion of this amber is chemically processed. Pure succinic acid is produced for making medicines and is used as a strategic material on nuclear submarines and in the engines of spacecraft. By-products include amber oil and amber varnish. These are used to make high quality paints and varnishes. Amber varnish is essential for restoring the gilded roofs of architectural monuments.

The optical properties of amber have been utilised for a long time. In the Middle Ages, spectacles were made from amber, and at the present day, several manufacturers of optical equipment use amber to improve the quality of lenses.

Amber, particularly pressed amber or amberoid, is used as an insulator in electrical equipment. Such amber cores were also used in the equipment that measured radiation levels after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Amber in the world’s ancient cultures

Egypt, Assyria, Greece and Rome figure prominently in all accounts of the history of civilisation, and among the archaeological finds from these cultures there also occur amber artefacts. Chemical analysis has shown this to be Baltic amber. Amber and tin were the goods that first aroused an interest in northern and western Europe among the people of the ancient world. Circulation of these materials stimulated the spread of civilisation. The Bronze Age world is symbolised by bronze weapons and amber religious ornaments – the secular and sacred providers of security.

Amber is mentioned in lists compiled by Assyrian jewellers around 1000 BC. In the Assyrian capitals Assur and Babylon amber beads have been recovered from temple and tower foundations. On the banks of the Tigris, at the site of the Assyrian city of Kalah, an amber figure has been found of Assyrian ruler Assurnasirpal (883–859 BC). Analysis has established that this is Baltic amber.

The ancient Greeks called amber elektron, which means “substance of the sun”, and the capacity of amber to become charged and attract small particles later led to the name “electricity”. Large numbers of amber beads have been found in the ruins of Mycenae. Amber also adorned the shoulders and hair of the ladies of Thebes, but it was most popular in ancient Rome. For example, the amber collections at the archaeological museum at L’Aquila in Italy include ladies’ toiletry articles, mythological figures and groups, genre figurines, pieces in the shape of fruit, and rings. Particularly interesting is a collection of rings with female heads, accumulated during a comparatively short period, 60–160 AD. The value of amber in ancient Rome is indicated by the fact that a single piece of amber was equal in price to a strong slave. It was fashionable for ladies to carry a ball of amber in the palm of the hand, while amber-coloured hair was particularly favoured in the reign of Nero. There is reason to believe that amber was endowed with a special mystical, ritual or magical significance among the women of ancient Rome.

How did amber reach the cultures of the ancient world?

The amber routes

The earliest written evidence regarding Baltic amber may be found in the writings of Tacitus. He notes that the Aesti are the only people who collect this treasure from the Baltic Sea and sell it to others. Along the trade routes, amber passed through the hands of several intermediaries, so the Greek and Roman descriptions of the northern lands where amber originated are inaccurate and often mystical. Much clearer than the vague mentions in written sources are the hoards of amber that mark the routes by which Baltic amber was traded to the lands of the ancient world.

Apart from the route leading from Jutland, where amber sources were used up already in the centuries before Christ, all of the later routes come only from the Baltic: the Sambian Peninsula, the Couronian Spit and the coast of Kurzeme. The eastern route (mentioned by Herodotus) led through the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea and was also used by the Near Eastern states. The Vistula-Dniester route brought amber to the borders of the Roman Empire from the east, and the so-called Moravian Gate gave access to the heart of the empire. This depression connects the upper course of the Oder (and Vistula) with the upper reaches of the Morava, extending to the Danube at Bratislava. This is called the Great Amber Route, since it was very actively used during the reign of Emperor Nero, when amber was at the height of its fashion in Rome.

Amber gathering and use in the Baltic

Already in distant antiquity, the people living along the shore of the Baltic Sea not only collected amber for trade, but also made practical use of it as a decorative, curative and religious material. The oldest amber animal figurines date from the 8th–7th millennium BC. In the territory of present- day Latvia and Lithuania amber processing began in the 4th millennium BC. The most interesting finds of artefacts come from Sarnate, Lubana and Juodkrante, and recently also from Purciems (Gipka). Many of these finds have been obtained in work directed by Dr hab. hist. Ilze Loze, corresponding member of the Latvian Academy of Sciences, who is also a member of the Amber Committee of the International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences. Amber was widely used as a magical material with curative properties and as a component of religious rituals among the neighbouring ancient Slavic peoples in Kievan Rus and Poland.

Along with the conquest of the Baltic by the crusaders in the 13th century, the local amberworking traditions declined. In the coastal area around Danzig, the Dukes of Pomerania established for themselves a monopoly right to collect amber. The Teutonic Order, having taken control of Prussia, seized the right to all the amber that was obtained. The local people, if they did not give up amber, were punished by hanging. The coastal villages of Latvia too were “adorned” with gallows for amber-thieves. To prevent theft of unworked amber, workshops were established as far as possible from the sources: at Bruges in 1302, at Lübeck in 1310, at Danzig in 1477, at Elbing in 1539 and at Königsberg only in 1641. The craft corporations produced mainly rosary beads. Gradually, the technique of amberworking was perfected. Characteristic finds from the 17th and 18th centuries include amber mosaics, inlaid designs and various sculptures. This was one of the boom periods of amberworking, when a unique Amber Cabinet was made, and later an Amber Room as well. The 19th century saw a transition from amber collection to amber mining at the sources in Palmnicken (Jantarnij). Initially, mining was from shafts, but opencast mining later developed. These are the world’s richest sources of amber. The source is on the seashore, and part of it is under the sea. The prevailing marine current still transports lumps of amber from these sources, to be washed up on the shore of Lithuania and Latvia. The source is worked by the Kaliningrad Amber Plant.

Amber in Latvian ethnography

Only in the 19th century, when the monopoly on amber gathering was lifted, could the coastal people re-establish the ethnographic tradition of amberworking that had been forbidden for centuries. The folk costumes in coastal areas preserve three typical ethnographic items made of amber. These are kniepkeni, brooches and beads. The kniepkens was used to fasten the opening of the woman’s blouse at the neck, in a similar manner to modern-day men’s cuff-links (see drawing), and were richly adorned with pendants. This motif is nowadays widely used in making a variety of pins. The brooches, used to fasten various items of clothing, were made of pure amber, with a traditional design engraved from the left-hand side. Usually they are round, but atypical examples, such as heart-shaped and leaf-shaped brooches, also occur. There are also metal brooches inset with amber. Beads include three forms: cylindrical, barrel-shaped and rounded. Amber crosses are often found too.

Forms of Baltic amber and amber processing

99.8% of Baltic amber is succinite. There are very rare finds of beckerite and stantienite. The predominant tones of our amber are the yellows, but these may extend to red, brown, blue and green. The transparency also changes – from clear and transparent to bone-white and opaque, with a great variety of transitional forms. Just try to find two identical lumps of amber! You never will. There is no end of colour tone and transparency combinations. These are a consequence of differences in chemical composition, impurities and density.

Nowadays, amber is worked by professional craftspeople and applied artists. Contemporary jewellery often continues ethnographic traditions, retained by the inhabitants of the coast of western Kurzeme, but modern trends also appear. There is a Riga school of amberworking, where metallic elements are also important, and a Liepaja school, where the unique character of the amber itself is highlighted. Professional craftspeople are nowadays trained at Liepaja. Right up to the early 20th century, whole families along the coast near Liepaja derived their main income from amber gathering.

The largest pieces of amber have been found in Prussia: one weighing 6750 g was found in 1803, and another weighing 9700 g came to light in 1860. Medieval sources mention even larger pieces – 12 kg and 16 kg lumps of amber, but there is no accurate information on these. The Amber Museum in Kaliningrad has a 4280 g amber piece, found in the 1950s. The largest modern-day find is from Sarawak in Malaysia, weighing over 50 kg and now kept in Stuttgart Museum of Natural History.

Inclusions in amber

Amber is a unique embalming agent, so inclusions in amber attract considerable attention. The largest proportion of the inclusions – 80% – are insects. The aromatic resin attracted the tiny inhabitants of the “amber forest” and preserved them through the centuries, trapped in its shining embrace as evidence of the insect fauna of the time. Spiders are also common among the inclusions, and there are unique finds such as an amber-encased lizard and a frog. Forgeries of inclusions in amber are also sold. The inclusions help to date the amber.

Plant remains are often found as inclusions in amber. These are much more difficult to identify. They are used to reconstruct the landscape of the “amber forest”. For example, swamp cypress remains occur in amber from both Europe and America. This suggests that the resin of the swamp cypress could also have changed into amber.

Mineral matter and soil also occurs as inclusions.

Where can amber be seen and purchased?

The richest collection of Baltic amber is kept at Palanga Amber Museum. Unfortunately, since the border shifted in 1921, this is no longer the territory of Latvia. The Latvian Nature Museum also has a comparatively rich collection. The largest archaeological and ethnographic amber collections are held at the Liepaja Museum of Art and History, the Latvian History Museum and the Latvian Institute of History. These are exhibited only in part, so visitors with a special interest need to apply in advance.

Worked amber is sold at many souvenir and art shops in Riga and other cities, and, particularly during the tourist season, in squares and parks as well, mainly in the old town of Riga.

Text: Anita Saulite

08-30-02, 09:12 PM
Oh I get it. Latvia is all man no chicks. That is why Avatar has no idea
Avatar is to busy seeing to them,to tell you about them,he wants them all for himself!
:D :D

08-30-02, 09:46 PM
holy cow avatar

you finally posted the good stuff!!
ride on my latvian padre!!

ten to one tho they are ruskies or ukies

08-30-02, 09:52 PM
most likely

sanda, dana and julia are latvian names

but there are very few latvian girl sites
I put a lot of effort to find these

09-07-02, 09:57 PM
You have been living in Riga too long if,

1. If you see 3 cars infront of you and think you've gotten into a traffic jam
2. You are happy that new multistorey and underground parkings are being built, but you don't leave your car there anyway
3. You take your umbrella with yourself all year round
4. You know not less than 3 languages
5. Phrases like "terribly great, terrifying gorgeous" don't surprise you, you understand what it's about perfectly.
6. Smile, or simply with goodness smile, if you see a uniform of Latvian army
7. Regurally meet on street members of government and parlament and automatically greet them.
8. Have seen Raimonds Pauls (famous piano player and a not so famous polititian) in slippers or simply without his security
9. Are surprised if your newly met person doesn't have a cell phone
10. Every year at the end of June go with friends to the country to drink beer and eat meat rosted on open fire.
11. Un consciously you think that there are only 4 - 5 types of juice. A new type seems as extremely exotic.
12. Got used to explain long and effortly to foreigners where Latvia is located
13. You are amazed if a foreigner tells where Latvia is located and what is it's capital.
14. You are truly proud that Lats is the most valuable currency in Europe
15. Phrase "go to the sea" means to you 15-20 minutes by car.
16. Truly think of yourself as European- if not Western, then Eastern, but not in any case as Northen.
17. Got used to that from the date we get into NATO and EU all will end and it will be something like nirvana afterwards.
18. You have gotten used to that in all shops the prices are almost identically the same
19. At the street sign of 50 you really drop the speed to 50.
20. Holes in jards you think are unpenetratable evil and easy go round them as a moon vehicle craters.
21. Prices with 4 numbers after the semicolon don't surprise you. The rate of dollar and euro you also know to the last 3 numbers.
22. Grammar mistakes in Latvian on gianp posters don't surprise you and vice versa (if the company which made these posters was either russian or latvian)
23. You are used in watching movies in cinema in english, video tapes in russian and weather forecast in latvian.

09-07-02, 10:15 PM
Mm, latvian softcore porno. Cool link Avatar! And once again, awesome thread too :)